Dear Gena Merrett
One of our readers has made us aware of an article that has appeared on your website today entitled `The Salford Star and rent rises – the truth', which accuses this fiercely independent community media group of being a "key supporter of an extreme left-wing political party that aims to 'smash The Labour Council and the Labour Party'" (see here).
You add that the "Salford Star has never been one to let the truth or accuracy get in the way of a good story that might help to support these aims" and use as an example "its story this week purporting that the Council have put up rents to inflict misery on tenants as a way of balancing the freeze on council tax was typically far from accurate".
Let's take these one at a time. Firstly, the Salford Star has never, ever, publicly supported any political party in Salford because that would make us Political with a capital P. Such accusations would appear to make you Paranoid. With a capital P.
Even when Salford Council's Cabinet tried to block devolved community funding for the Salford Star, and did an in depth analysis of our content in both print and online, it found no evidence of any support for any political party. Perhaps you would like to show us an example to back up your accusation?
If you mean support for the Salford Against The Cuts campaign - which, if you hadn't noticed, is not a political party - then yes, of course we back it. Salford Against The Cuts is a campaign that supports any community organisation or members of Salford Council's own workforce who have been victims of the cuts. Some of your own Labour Party councillors have been very vocal within those campaigns too – perhaps they want to 'smash The Labour Council and the Labour Party' too?
If you mean support for the Salford Council workers trade union, Salford City UNISON, that is also standing up against cuts to public services and jobs, then, yes, we'll gladly admit to that too. Although we didn't know that UNISON wants to 'smash The Labour Council and the Labour Party' as well. UNISON is actually one of the biggest supporters of the Labour Party.
It seems that anyone or any community group that dares to criticise, campaign or try to hold this current Council to account is being branded `extreme left wing' or apologists for the ConDem Govermment... Perhaps you'd like to say that to Salford Park Rangers, Salford Museum and Art Gallery workers and Home Care workers currently campaigning for their jobs, or mums of kids with disabilities, or mental health service users campaigning for their services?
What was it your new spin doctor, Matt Finnegan, said in the Manchester Evening News recently? Let us remind you of what he said when he was being criticised for taking an equivalent salary of £66,000 a year, while the Council is cutting jobs and services. He said "I expect to be attacked by Tories and Trotskyists".
Well, that would make 99% of Salford's population `Tories and Trotskyists'!
Indeed, your spin doctor trying to slur anyone who questions him is an absolute disgrace; and your slur on the Salford Star as a "key supporter of an extreme left-wing political party" is an untrue, attempted slur on our contributors and directors.
Indeed, the slurs are coming thick and fast at the moment, with comments regularly being posted on the Star website accusing us of `planting' comments in our favour. Again, totally untrue, scandalous, libellous rubbish.
We're also getting accused of `inaccurate' reporting. It all seems to be part of a concerted campaign against the Salford Star, which, coincidentally, has only started since spin doctor Finnegan took media command at the Council. Is this now Labour Party policy in Salford?
Which brings us to your second slur. You write that the "Salford Star has never been one to let the truth or accuracy get in the way of a good story", adding "Its story this week purporting that the Council have put up rents to inflict misery on tenants as a way of balancing the freeze on council tax was typically far from accurate."
Perhaps if you'd actually read the article (see here) you might have noticed that it was a Salford resident, put into extreme poverty by rent increases, the Bedroom Tax and Council Tax Benefit cuts, who said that, not the journalist who wrote the article.
But, hey, why let the truth get in the way of a good slag off of the Salford Star? While we're at it, though, let's actually look at what you write and the reality of the situation.
You write that "In fact, additional costs to Salford tenants above inflation will all be the result of decisions imposed by central government over which the council have no sway".
If you'd read the original Salford Star article on the rent rises (see here) you might have noticed that we did actually state that "It's part of Central Government's `convergence' of social rents that will see average social rents rise from £67.95 in 2012 to £73.74 by 2015".
We also added that on the Council report about the rent rises there was an option to reduce rents by 1%. Subsequent minutes of the Council meeting at which that report was discussed, and which you attended, show that the rent increase was questioned by fellow Assistant Mayors, and that the Council did actually have `sway' over the decision.
The resident quoted in the Salford Star report did have a point. Just to clear this up, let us quote to you some of the minutes of that rent increase meeting…
* Councillor Dennett spoke of his concerns, of how the proposed increase will affect certain groups the hardest, and he queried the robustness of the methodology used as to whether it has taken into consideration the present economic downturn.
* Members requested the opportunity to consider the Housing Revenue Account in more detail, to see whether savings can be sought from elsewhere to ensure a balanced account.
* Members asked what the impact would be if a lesser increase was agreed. In response, the Chief Financial Officer informed Cabinet that should a lesser rent and service charge be considered appropriate, then it will have a number of consequences, including the loss of income to HRA; there will be a requirement to catch up with convergence in future years, making increases higher than they might otherwise be and income would fall below that assumed when the government implemented self-financing (on which our debt settlement was based).
*Due to concerns raised, Members suggested a delay in agreeing the proposed increase to allow more time to consider various elements to the rent convergence.
Gina Merrett, you really want to get your facts right before slinging mud at the Salford Star, or any other group or individual for that matter.
So, let's see… You accuse the Star of being a "key supporter of an extreme left-wing political party that aims to 'smash The Labour Council and the Labour Party'". Not true.
You accuse the Salford Star of producing the rent article that is "typically far from accurate". Again. Not true.
Attempting to discredit the Salford Star is becoming a pastime within Salford Council at the moment – what with Mayor Ian Stewart accusing us of `lies' (see here), anonymous e-mails from your `neutral' press office accusing us of negativity (see here) and now you with your unfounded allegations.
Perhaps you'd be better off spending your time attacking the ConDem Government and standing up for your own residents than attacking an independent, voluntary, community centred media group.
We look forward to your reply.
With attitude and love xxx