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SALFORD STAR STRIKE WEEK TWO AS SALFORD COUNCIL CONCEDES
 

Star date: 3rd June 2013

SALFORD COUNCIL COUGHS UP THE ILLEGAL STUFF BUT THE STRIKE GOES ON

Under pressure Salford Council has finally coughed up some information following the strike by Salford Star over the authority's illegal withholding of information.

Having told media website Prolific North that "Salford City Council does not seek to block information and rejects these allegations", lo and behold, three responses arrived with information requested from as long ago as nine months. This is not enough. The strike continues.

And what's this got to do with Taksim Square? Full details here…


`Salford is now the hardest place in the UK to find a job - something is not right...'

The Salford Star has now been on strike for ten days against Salford Council's illegal withholding of information and lots more (see the previous strike article click here).

Last week, under questioning from media website Prolific North, Salford Council stated that it "does not seek to block information and rejects these allegations" (see here). Then, as if by magic, some information the Star had been waiting for, dating back nine months, suddenly arrived.

In typical Salford Council style however, the information the Star received was only that which could be construed as being illegally withheld. And nothing else. What's more, around fifty per cent of the information received was heavily `redacted' on the grounds of `commercial confidentiality'. Here's what we got…

ILLEGAL WITHHOLDING OF ACCOUNTS INFORMATION…

Each year, every citizen in Salford has the right to inspect Salford City Council's draft accounts and can ask to see invoices and contracts relating to those accounts. Blocking that information is, in the words of Salford Council's own accounts office, "a criminal offence".

Information requested by the Salford Star last August was duly blocked - until last Friday when details of over £20million of Salford Council spending at MediaCityUK, Greengate and Chapel Street finally arrived. But well over half of it was `redacted', or blocked, on the grounds of `commercial confidentiality'.

Apparently, there's been a court case (Veolia vs Nottinghamshire CC) where the `right to inspect' council accounts now falls under the same `commercial confidentiality' rules as Freedom of Information requests. The redacted information from Salford Council came with a warning from its accounts office… "The judgement on the Veolia appeal also found that information provided in response to the right to inspect under the Act should be used only for the purpose of the audit: that is, to question and to object."

The Salford Star's response would be – "How the f*ck can you `question and object' to accounts when everything's blanked out and you don't know who's being paid what?"

…And "How the hell can you `question and object' when it takes nine months for the puny information to come through and the accounts were already signed off by the district auditor last March?"

We're talking £12million worth of invoices and payments relating to Chapel Street and Greengate with absolutely no public accountability. Under this cloak of invisibility all sorts of bribery and corruption could be played out. This isn't about the Salford Star being arsey, this affects every single person in Salford. Disgrace doesn't begin to describe it…

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION – SALFORD CITY REDS AND IAN STEWART

Salford City Reds – last December the Salford Star requested details of all loans to Salford City Reds since 2009/10. Despite a call for an internal inquiry as to why no response was received, nothing was forthcoming – until last Wednesday when we finally got the information with an apology…

Since 2009/10 Salford Council has advanced Salford City Reds three loans of £1,000,000, £188,000 and £309,000. This comes on top of a loan the previous year of £350,000 – making a total of £1,847,000 in loans which have never before been made public.

There were also straight payments to the club - the £250,000 dodgy car park buy out at the Willows, the £6,000 Council sponsorship of the Reds and the £200,000 Council payments to Salford City Reds Foundation which found their way straight into the rugby club, as first revealed by the Salford Star (see here).

The full extent of Salford Council's financial stuffing of the previous Salford Reds regime still isn't known because another Freedom of Information request around time and money spent on Council staff and consultants for the club still hasn't been answered.

CITY MAYOR IAN STEWART

Last October, City Mayor Ian Stewart sent his Connecting Salford consultation magazine to every home in Salford, at a cost of over £15,000 (see here), asking views on the future direction of the city. Yet the results have never been published, so we asked for those results under the Freedom of Information Act – to which we received no reply.

Then, the day after the Salford Star strike began, we finally got a response, which stated that it was in the public interest not to release the results of the public consultation as they were being published at the end of July.

What the Council did reveal, however, was that it received a massive 256 repliesor around a 0.2% response rate, which works out at almost £60 per response.

WHY SALFORD STAR IS STILL ON STRIKE

While Salford Council very quickly conceded to the strike and sent out information it was previously blocking in order to avoid accusations that it is acting illegally, there is still lots of stuff outstanding – three Freedom of Information requests, and an explanation of what action the Council is taking over Assistant Mayor Gena Merrett's slurring of the Salford Star. 

Until we get some answers we remain out on strike. Interestingly, not one single Salford councillor has been in touch with the Star, or even questioned why the Council was illegally blocking information. Obviously transparency and accountability is not their thing.

Given the huge amount of public money that Salford Council spends, the need for a functioning independent community media that holds it up to account is of crucial importance.

It gets more important every day, as figures released by job search website Adzuna show that Salford is now the hardest place in the UK to find a job - with 55 applicants chasing every vacancy in the city, compared to 3.4 nationally. And this, despite the hundreds of millions of pounds of public money that have been pumped into the city promising job creation over the past decade.

Something is not right in Salford.

This is why the Salford Star - a voluntary, community centred media with no vested interests - exists. Unfortunately that existence is under threat as the lack of information makes it harder to function by the day.

Last week we signed off with `Welcome to China on the Irwell'. This week we sign off with `Welcome to Turkey on the Irwell'

TURKEY ON THE IRWELL

Over the past week in Taksim Square, Istanbul, thousands of people turned out to protest against a `regeneration scheme' that would see one of the city centre's last remaining green spaces replaced with yet another shopping centre.

The demonstrators were met by Turkish riot police and tear gas, in what has now become an international news story about an authoritarian government ignoring its community, spending massive amounts of public money with no accountability, dismissing protesters as extremists and imposing its will on the people.

"They can do whatever they want" spat the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan "We've made our decision, and we will do as we have decided."

Both political commentators and protesters were united in their disgust…

"Erdogan is a very confident and very authoritarian politician, and he doesn't listen to anyone any more" said a professor at Istanbul University "But he needs to understand that Turkey is no kingdom…"

So what's this got to do with Salford, UK? As if you haven't guessed. Apart from the tear gas and riot police, the issues are remarkably similar. A regime trying to impose regeneration onto an old community with no transparency ...and sticking two fingers up at anyone who questions its judgement or stands in its way.

One bar manager in the affected Beyoglu district of Istanbul said that the Turkish Government "wants to control what Beyoglu looks like, and who can live here. In the future there will be no room for alternative places like ours. All leftist opposition groups, associations and cultural spaces will be rooted out, and the only place to get a drink will be expensive luxury hotels and restaurants. It will be the end of Beyoglu as we know it."

Replace `Boyoglu' with `Salford' and you're getting there…

THE SALFORD STAR STRIKE WEEK ONE

We'd like to thank all the people who have emailed us, or put supportive comments on the site, on Facebook and on Twitter. We would also like to apologise to those people who haven't been able to get their story on the site during the strike. Hopefully some more of our issues with Salford Council can be resolved this week. In the meantime please direct any complaints to City Mayor Ian Stewart, Chief Executive Barbara Spicer or your local councillor…


See articles on the Salford Star strike…

• Prolific North – click here

• Mule – click here

• National Union of Journalists – click here

* Electoral Reform Society - click here

the end wrote
at 18:16:55 on 10 June 2013
ref Bernard "I'll just ignore the puerile comments from the end" - but you didnt!!!
 
Siobhan wrote
at 07:40:32 on 10 June 2013
Having met many councillors I am convinced they have Salford's best interests at heart, but are they good enough to run a million pound budget or organise anything? Not on your life. I think we may have to go back to the days of Central govt taking over a rogue council. A bunch of faceless mandarins from Whitehall could not do as badly as Stewart and his cronies. Why can't they see that giving money to the Reds whilst closing Social Services is just plain wrong?
 
Bernard Brough wrote
at 07:39:54 on 10 June 2013
So in addition to taxing us to the poorhouse you want us to give even more cash to private insurance companies. Get real. It's not the working people of this city that got us into the mess we are in it was politicians & bankers. I'll just ignore the puerile comments from the end.
 
Salford Red wrote
at 17:38:04 on 09 June 2013
I don't read the Sun or the Fail, I've just seen first hand how many leeches are sucking us dry by going off long term sick on full pay, making a miraculous recovery when their pay gets cut only to go back off sick when their entitlement rises! It stinks! I bet if you thought it was one of the council bosses on £100k per year doing it you would be baying for their blood, but because you think I mean the lower paid ones you think I'm a Daily Fail reading Tory. Wrong! If I had my way every employed person in the UK would have to spend a tenner a month on insurance in case they had a serious problem and went off sick long term. This would save employers Billions, including private and public sector. I work as a HR manager and have been both public and private sector and its the same everywhere that the sickness policy is too lax. While I am at it I would sack Spicer from her £200k job, why do we need her when we are paying Stewart £69k for running the council?! I would also make sure some of these useless old fart councillors get off their asses and do some work too! Rant over!
 
the end wrote
at 17:36:36 on 09 June 2013
I see bullshit Bernard is back, if you are not a commie you are wrong in his eyes.
 
Bernard Brough wrote
at 22:11:18 on 08 June 2013
Are you Ian Duncan Smith? In the same way that the Nazis blamed the Jews & communists for al Germany's ills their modern counterparts in this country, otherwise known as the nasty party blame the sick & unemployed. Try using original thought rather than spouting the shite you read in the Sun & Mail.
 
Michael Felse wrote
at 22:11:02 on 08 June 2013
@SalfordRed - in fact modern work is full of stress. No wonder people buckle under the pressure. What is needed are understanding employers, able to implement a keep well at work policy, backed by access to good service support. Sadly few councils take any decision to have a workers' staying healthy policy. The public simply interpret the sickness as workers swinging the lead. I would trust any local council if it was able to prove a zero sickness rate - based on its workers all being fit, happy, healthy and well.
 
Salford Red wrote
at 07:13:53 on 08 June 2013
Joe, if you think it's only Salford where the public sector workers are leaching off us by going on long term sick for the poorest reasons then you live in cloud cuckoo land! There's tens if thousands of such leeches going off sick with stress or headaches or poorly backs, but nothing is said!! Stop sick pay and maybe the country will get richer! Oh I've probably just sent a dozen public sector workers scurrying off to see their GP to say they need to go off sick with stress after reading this!
 
Joe Oneill wrote
at 20:10:26 on 07 June 2013
Nothing to be done Paul?. no you forget their is we invest to build, we make sure the money reaches the people who can stimulate the economy at present the money is ending up in the German central banks why? because they are guaranteeing I safe deposit with nil return we work locally and nationally to jump start the economy, we work with the unions and management to offer security, we talk openly about the issues yes even down to immigration, the PC ISSUES every one fears to bring into the arena, you say no cuts, sorry Paul you live in a socialist daydream. I have witnessed Labours waste your answer you can't save the money by cutting back on tea and biscuits, you forget that one year Salford Council paid out millions in sick pay and have a top heavy management structure unwilling to talk to any one. I have been through the budgets but you and the others don't want to listen. I have no issues with you and it's sad we are reduced to petty bickering. I Choose to fight in may own way you yours perhaps one day we will meet in the middle.
 
Paul Gerrard wrote
at 09:37:55 on 07 June 2013
@ Joe O'Neill - actually we do have an alternative, Joe, and it's social ownership. Capitalism doesn't deliver any more. Five years since the near collapse of the banking system and nothing has changed - does anybody seriously believe there won't be another crisis? 20 million unemployed across Europe - is this really all our or their fault? Joe and the Greens may say there's nothing to be done and we have to implement cuts, just like Labour does, and like the Lib-Dems, but we have a programme for a better system. Nationalise the banks and big companies, with proper democratic control by employees and consumers, and PLAN the economy! In the meantime fight the cuts and build a mass campaign to get the Coalition out.
 
Markus de Rawku wrote
at 09:37:03 on 07 June 2013
Can't Believe it has got to this,they obviously have a lot to hide,this publication has the Salford Community as its heartbeat and We the People of Salford,deserve more,I believe there has been a witch hunt against the paper,ever since it covered the people's views of Hazel Blears who not only fiddled her expenses but backed the Bombing of Iraq with many other UK MP's that have taken no responsibility whatsoever, for all the innocent victims,(close to 1million) and the UK Soldiers which were poisoned,injured or killed in an unjust war for oil. unjust war.are mainly made up of lads from places such as Salford when unemployment is high. in an unjust war,probably the only time most of them,set foot on a plane.Keep up the good work everyone at The Salford Star,all th evolunteers and supporters. SALFORD NEEDS YOU !!!
 
m. thompson wrote
at 09:36:08 on 07 June 2013
The European Union are going to give Salford City Council a proper slapping over this. All information must be released within 6 weeks of request (with a further extension of about 30 days). If NOT this is called "UNFAIR DELAY", and this is an extremely serious offence under UK and European data protection and freedom of information laws, To hide and conceal information, constitutes FRAUD, or at least "MALADMINISTRATION"...These councils have been use to robbing PUBLIC money and denying us our lawful (and legal) rights. Such councils and authorities never anticipated the FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT, however, like all white collar thieves, they are totally addicted to money from deception and theft and they cannot help themselves committing such CRIMES. The whole of SALFORD should take their hats off to the brave people at Salford Star and keep on pressing very hard for transparency. DON'T LET THIS ONE GO PEOPLE...
 
Matt wrote
at 16:04:29 on 06 June 2013
Saw this and thought of you: “A free press is the unsleeping guardian of every other men that free man prize; it is the most dangerous foe of tyranny. Where men have the habit of liberty the Press will continue to be the vigilant guardian of the rights of the ordinary citizen.“ Winston Churchill Keep up the good work
 
Steven North wrote
at 13:23:51 on 06 June 2013
Just sent this to the Mayor and Chief Executive: Dear City Mayor and Chief Executive I am emailing to say that Salford City UNISON supports The Salford Star and the work that it does in providing important information to the people of Salford. We understand and sympathise with its decision to go on strike. We hope that Salford City Council will take a more positive attitude to The Salford Star in the future so that this dispute can be resolved in the interests of both parties. Challenging community journalism should be welcomed by any public body. Regards, Steve Steven North Branch Secretary, Salford City UNISON
 
straighshooter wrote
at 13:23:45 on 06 June 2013
OMG UKIP! Really?
 
joe oneill wrote
at 08:04:48 on 06 June 2013
The trouble is Paul you can't say the cuts are wrong and offer no alternatives like yourselves Government means making tough decisions but fair decisions that respect all classes of people, I respect your view but I also respect a way forward not anarchy which sadly seems your only answer,
 
Bylectual watcher wrote
at 08:03:39 on 06 June 2013
Gerrard = Lunatic, extreme, left wing arsehole. O'Neil = Failed Cllr who will drink or piss in any trough for his own benefit and, an arsehole. Ferrer = A good well meaning lady who has become a sheep of an arsehole. (stand independently your credibility is yours) Felse = Fucking hell what can I say, call the men in white coats!!!!!!!!!!!!!
 
C Gleave wrote
at 08:03:16 on 06 June 2013
I read one of labour's fliers which mentions, the living wage and pay freeze for the top staff, but people should also know that low paid staff were threatened with the sack if they did not take a pay cut and sign new contracts. They also should know that this looney labour council is spending large sums of money on water taxis for the BBC and salford have a structural deficit of over £600 million, compared to Bury/Trafford of under £100 million.
 
Paul Gerrard wrote
at 15:59:25 on 05 June 2013
Curious Clive has a point about Lib Dems who switch to Green. If you don't like the cuts, switching from Lib Dem to Green is like jumping from the frying pan into the fire. Ask the binmen in Brighton, where the Greens voted for cuts and provoked a bin strike. Even Carolyn Lucas has had to dissociate herself from the Green councillors in her own town! So much for the squeaky clean Greens. But if you live in Weaste and Seedley you do have an anti cuts option this time, the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition - TUSC against Cuts.
 
Michael Felse wrote
at 12:06:35 on 05 June 2013
Thanks Mary, sorry to suck eggs, but Public Safety is one big thing local Councillors should take seriously. This is about road safety, CRB checks on people working in services to vulnerable people (remember DJ Savile), it includes safer internet use in schools, working at eradicating all people trafficking, ensuring sheltered housing and local neighborhoods have well trained wardens. We need to get out of Europe to ensure we can have the local power to protect local people and we need to outlaw those Councillors that are in it for the glory and money. I want MPs to do there bit by donating half their public salary to local good causes (yes like mental health) and all of our Councillors to have to do 15 hours a week free services in voluntary good causes. If it is World War Three then YES.
 
jack deelay wrote
at 05:42:12 on 05 June 2013
churchill once said, "You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life", also he said, "A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on". very true in the age of censorship and talk of whistleblowers constantly, the internet is very new and holds people to account, they hate the internet "the one that got away" data communication bill coming soon...
 
mary ferrer wrote
at 05:41:36 on 05 June 2013
Thank you Curious Clive,but I don't think I am a plonker. What I am is someone who care about what is happening in this city. I lost respect for the Lib Dems when they joined up with the Conservatives,but that's history. and I feel the Greens are the party for me,they tick the boxes that I have a passion for Mike Pevitt, I still think that the amount the Reds have had is well over the £2Million mark. Micheal Felse, this is a by election, not the start of world war three,(PUBLIC SAFETY)
 
oe oneill wrote
at 05:41:29 on 05 June 2013
strange we are at least fighting and we have track records of fighting labour. And you i never take people serious who just sit and type that,s to easy worries me people who don,t even address their comments with full name.
 
Curious Clive wrote
at 20:38:10 on 04 June 2013
@joe oneill, please see the reply I gave to Michael Felse. You do however appear to be confirming the comments made by many of my friends in Weaste and Seedley about the smaller parties A.K.A to some of my mates "the loons". Personally I don't see the Greens in Salford like this, I see the Greens as a bunch of ex Lib-dems who know they can not get elected under that ticket and have hijacked a party that could have been a good voice of the people, but in their desperate search for support recruited any plonker that came along. No offence.
 
not a brain dead labour voter wrote
at 20:37:31 on 04 June 2013
UKIP, the only alternative to the self serving shister's we have now both locally and nationally. Britain first, the way it should be. I look forward to the big election's when we can show these self serving parasites, how we the people feel about them. to Joe, as said before I like Mary, but sorry I want a party that puts Britain and it's people first, something we have not had for many decades. and I now think that we have that in UKIP, and like curious many of the people I speak to are going to vote UKIP. Mike pevitt, don't you feel a bit nervous that Salford reds have a so called millionaire, but still need to except money from a council that steels from Salford tax payer to make these payments, doesn't sit well for the future of Salford reds, does it now, like I have said before, another Mr Salford fiasco in the making "again"
 
joe oneill wrote
at 19:25:32 on 04 June 2013
Curious Clive if you have trouble with the big words in the Green Party manifesto call me I will break them down for you Regards Joe Salford Greens
 
Curious Clive wrote
at 19:25:25 on 04 June 2013
Michael, thanks for your reply, can I just point out I was not calling other parties loons, I was stating that most of the people I have spoke to in Weaste & Seedley have this opinion, this does not mean I have that opinion. And why do you have the question of "public safety" for the UKIP candidate, I think you may be mixing them up with the BNP, who would love to react with a bit of hatred and racial stirring. UKIP nationally are about getting a referendum on the UK staying or leaving the EU, they don't have polices forcing the removal of Muslims, Blacks, or any other ethnic group, locally they are an alternative to the current pocket lining bastards running this city, research has shown UKIP candidates come from across the political spectrum, and most could not give a flying fook about the leadership of the party or how they say things should be done (that's towing party line) but just want change. Change that in Salford WE NEED. So Michael tell us anyway who will you be voting for in the By-election, have I convinced you to welcome UKIP???
 
Michael Felse wrote
at 14:22:53 on 04 June 2013
Clive, thanks for the question and for Salford Star for enabling an answer portal. In fact YES there are independent voters in Salford. This election required some to sign my nomination paper, it was filled in half an hour with the correct number to meet the Electoral Law. I have said my concern for public safety made me step aside, this needs to be greater profiled and is a question I have for UKIP of course. I do not agree on your comment about the other parties being loons, they are each advocates of their beliefs but I think UKiP has an excellent chance. I urge people to vote for any but Labour, Conservative or Lib-Dem. It is my belief they fail the people of Salford and UKiP deserves the chance to prove themselves different on this occasion.
 
Aslan AK wrote
at 09:47:22 on 04 June 2013
Solidarity with the Salford Star.
 
Curious Clive wrote
at 09:47:15 on 04 June 2013
Michael, not having a dig here just curious, did you receive much doorstep support as an independent I presume not with your withdrawal, do you now predict a landslide victory for UKIP or will they just scrape it. 90% of the people I know in Weaste & Seedley are voting UKIP, (not because of their policies, although they are popular) because they see them as being the only outlet to tell the other parties that enough is enough and the attitude of cllrs needs changing. Most people I talk about above feel Labour have betrayed the people of Salford, Conseratives are as much use on the council as a chocolate teapot, the lib-dems are dead sell outs, and the other parties barring UKIP are fringe loons.
 
Michael Felse wrote
at 20:12:03 on 03 June 2013
Before pulling out of the by-election I experienced a strong public hostility towards Salford Labour that I have never seen before. One of the main comments was that Salford Council tell people nothing but promise them much at election time. I am out of the contest but I give this comment to tell Labour they are not winning public support. I feel that by them ignoring Salford Star the damages to Labour are greater than their Party Leaders could imagine.
 
Mike pevitt wrote
at 18:08:06 on 03 June 2013
With regards the Salford reds loans I knew all about them as a Salford fan they were made very public at all the meetings we attended as the old company went broke. Perhaps a bit more opening of eyes and you would have got the info.
 
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