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MORE MAYHEM AT SALFORD COUNCIL MEETING
 

Star date: 17th July 2013

THE BIG FOB OFF - ANTI CUTS CAMPAIGNERS UNIMPRESSED BY SALFORD STYLE DEMOCRACY

`That was the first time I've been to a Salford Council meeting - and I think it will be my last' Save The Grange parent

Public questions unanswered, others not allowed, even Council officers moving in to remove the microphone from people trying to ask questions…Welcome to another Salford City Council meeting where anti cuts campaigners from both Save The Grange and USUC (United Service Users Committee) were unimpressed with Salford style democracy. 

Earlier, parents of disabled children who attend The Grange respite centre collected signatures outside the Civic Centre against Council proposals for changes to the service aimed at saving £500,000

Full details here…


SAVE THE GRANGE CAMPAIGNERS OUTSIDE SALFORD COUNCIL MEETING SAVE THE GRANGE CAMPAIGNERS OUTSIDE SALFORD COUNCIL MEETING SAVE THE GRANGE CAMPAIGNERS OUTSIDE SALFORD COUNCIL MEETING
SAVE THE GRANGE CAMPAIGNERS OUTSIDE SALFORD COUNCIL MEETING
click image to enlarge

Having experienced a full meeting of Salford Council today, parents of disabled children left the Civic Centre feeling a democracy deficit at the heart of the city.

Parents had asked official questions at the Council meeting, only, they said, to be fobbed off with `politicians' answers'…

"That was the first time I've been to a Salford Council meeting - and I think it will be my last" said Alan Tunacliffe, whose two disabled children currently attend The Grange short term respite centre.

Salford Council wants to save £500,000 by moving children aged 7-17 out of The Grange and into the care of either foster parents or Granville Housecurrently an adult facility. At the same time, it wants to move children receiving medium and long term care outside the city into The Grange (see previous Salford Star articles for full details – click here and click here).

Horrified parents of children attending the centre have formed a Save The Grange campaign (see here) and one of them, Simon Leigh, asked a question at the Council meeting… `Why does the provision have to change to the detriment of service users?'

City Mayor Ian Stewart responded "This is a very difficult situation for families and we're conscious of that", before handing over to John Merry, Assistant Mayor for Children and Young People, who blamed ConDem Government cuts, and stated that he was "fighting to save the service".

Parent, Margaret Tunacliffe followed up the response by asking whether any councillor in the room would put their 14 year children into an adult facility. But the question was ruled out by Chief Executive Barbara Spicer. Instead, Merry responded that he would be happy to put his child in there, if there were proper safeguards in place. From the public balcony, Alan Tunacliffe tried to ask a question about safeguarding, which, again, was ruled out by Spicer.

Next up to ask a question about adult mental health user group drop-ins were Vee Ball and Stephen Cullen from USUC (United Service Users Committee), no strangers to Salford Council meetings (see here). They tried to ask what the Council was doing to ensure psychiatrically trained professionals would be present at drop-in groups for people with mental health problems, given the loss of two such posts in the last round of cuts.

This was ruled out again by Spicer, quoting the Council constitution, because it wasn't the exact wording submitted in advance of the meeting by USUC.

Vee Ball asked again what support drop-in groups would receive from professionals rather than volunteers…

Peter Connor, Assistant Mayor for Adult Services, said that Salford Council had "not made any cuts to mental health services…we have enhanced them"…

To applause from the public gallery, Vee responded that he had not answered the question, and asked again whether trained professionals would be supporting drop-in groups, given that there was a knifing incident at Ramsgate House drop-in group… "Are you prepared to leave these groups unsafeguarded?" she asked, as Council officers moved in to remove the mic from her hand. Peter Connor didn't respond. The campaigners had seen enough.

"Any question that was asked wasn't answered, everything was sidetracked; they didn't have an answer to a question, they just said something completely different" explained Alan Tunacliffe on his way out of the meeting "It's so frustrating to ask a question and not be given an answer. They just said there were no cuts and `We'll do the best we can and if it doesn't work out we'll have to go back next year and close The Grange'. John Merry thinks he's doing us a favour.

"When I stood up and asked about safeguarding I really wanted to ask a serious question but they wouldn't let me" he added "I wanted to ask about my daughter not being safeguarded by Salford – she was assaulted, and I wanted to ask whether they are making it even harder to safeguard her when they move her in with adults."

Caroline Dawson was another parent who came out of her first ever Council meeting feeling fobbed off…

"What a waste of time" she said "Obviously they're politicians, you put your questions in advance and they know how to avoid answering them. I certainly wasn't happy with the way they answered the questions – anything they were asked they contrived an answer that suited themselves, instead of answering the question that was put."

Meanwhile, Vee Ball, of USUC, now a veteran of Salford Council style democracy, again had her views reinforced by events at the meeting…

"Attempts were once again made to stop us from opening discussion on the real result from the consultation and letting all councillors, not just our leads, Connor and Merry, know we have not been beaten" she said "Today even though USUC went to challenge and champion promised commitments, the Council couldn't even offer up that. For us it was more proof that they never cared.

"Increased support to users, the original ethos behind all the suffering they caused, has been nowhere to be had, as we suspected from the start" she added "But USUC will continue to support service users through the transition and we will meet with the Mayor to discuss the success (according to them) of the new proposal. We will however continue to fight the service users' corner to ensure that the promise of improved services actually is delivered.

"USUC also pledge to support the brave parents fighting for the children at The Grange, who one day will be the next generation of vulnerable adults" she concluded "That it is our mission, to protect and support."

Before the Council meeting began, parents of The Grange children, together with Salford City UNISON members, USUC reps and Salford Against The Cuts campaigners lobbied councillors and got Salford Council staff on their way into work to sign the petition against Council proposals for The Grange.

 

To sign the online petition - click here

steve U.S.U.C. wrote
at 15:21:44 on 19 July 2013
Just to correct P Connor Asst Mayor Adult service,there are 196 people getting 2 hour 1-1 support,SCC want to increase that to 246 people to get 3 hour support. Not 1 hour support to be increased to 2 hours like you stated in full council. J Merry Asst Mayor Children's service,in this day how can you state that you would be happy to place your child in respite unit with adults,(glad your not my dad). R Jones Asst Mayor,How can you stand there & say people would be idiots to sign petitions against the council,because we are councillor & work for council & think it is ok,feel sorry for people of Irlam in your ward.
 
Ex Lib Dem wrote
at 09:44:02 on 18 July 2013
Not sure if you lot look at the SCC website, but if you did you will see councillors expenses are listed there. SCC councillors don't claim expenses, their allowances are also midway between the highest in the country and the lowest. Take MCC for example, which is where I work, councillors there are on £16k basic allowance compared to SCC £10k. Issues I've had with MCC I've not heard a jot from my councillors there, but my SCC councillors have done lots to assist with problems that I've had and have been well worth their weight in gold. That said, some of the assistant mayors need sacking cos they are useless, The mayor needs to go when his four years are up and we need more independent councillors breaking through. The Torys say nothing, they are a waste of space. I wish Salford residents would wake up and look at the real issues in Salford, get involved and vote for the person working hard for them and their city...and not just put an X in the box marked Labour. Alas I can't see this ever happening, people are too lazy and apathetic. Fact. How many others on here apart from Mary get actively involved? If you do please stand up and be counted, so at least there is a small glimmer of hope.
 
fed up council worker wrote
at 04:48:06 on 18 July 2013
There is no leadership what so ever in this coucnil. All Ian Stewart says is that he is new to this and need scary spicer to lead the way when the going gets tough. Today he and Merry his under Spicer's skirt (not a pleasant thought!) metaphoricaly that is. I urge members of the public to swamp these coucnil meetings so you can witness first hands how the Mayor and his array of expenses grabbing asistnats are ruining this city even more!
 
mary ferrer wrote
at 04:47:52 on 18 July 2013
What we all should do is write to our ward councillor who is up for election next year and remind them that if they don't listen to us, the X won't be going next to their name come next May.Also I think residents across the city should attend their community committees over the next few months and voice their concerns regarding the cutbacks. Yes we need to cutback, but at a cost to our most vulnerable,the old and the young.
 
margaret tunnacliffe wrote
at 20:23:40 on 17 July 2013
All i have to say is that Salford City Council have shown just how low they will go to cut costs,and it effects Vulnerable and disabled children and their families.SHAME ON YOU.
 
not happy wrote
at 20:23:33 on 17 July 2013
City Mayor Ian Stewart said: "These cuts have been forced on us by the coalition government. There is no escaping the fact that they will hurt the local people who the council serves” We have done our utmost to protect the most vulnerable, but with this level of cuts, there are bound to be casualties. It is not right; the government's austerity programme isn't working." That’s true its not working, people are dying, the vulnerable and needy going to food banks, mental heath patents from drop ins left to fend for them self’s ;; Now it’s the turn of the children with disabilities and there parents to come under Salford councils latest cuts according to Councilor Connors they have not made any cuts to mental health services…we have enhanced them"…how about enhancing there expenses and taking cut’s of them think at the next council elections I’ll stand for USUC might not get in but if other people put up for election we might get more sense then the ones that are now. Like scary Spicer you can’t ask that question what’s that all about that’s what they are there for to answer questions;; and I can’t see the cuts hurting the councillors can you;; Salford Short Break Services Statement Background Section 25 of the Children and Young Persons Act 2005 requires local authorities to provide short breaks for disabled children. The regulations relating to this duty, which came into force on 1 April 2011 require each local authority to produce a Short Break Services Statement, so that families know what services are available, the eligibility criteria for these services, and how the range of services is designed to meet the needs of families with disabled children in the area.
 
Gillian Welsh wrote
at 18:37:35 on 17 July 2013
As Paul says "FOBBED OFF AGAIN" Time after time after time we are treated as 2nd class citizens by these rude, arrogant excuse for Councillors who continually bypass the issues we are there to discuss.Whilst Iain Stewart sat there looking totally bemused. Maybe he too thinks that his Councillors talk total drot!!!!!!
 
alan tunnacliffe wrote
at 18:37:29 on 17 July 2013
after todays feeble attempt at democracy i have decided to never vote again useless morons
 
Gillian Welsh wrote
at 18:37:06 on 17 July 2013
Excellent article Steve as per usual. Many thanks.
 
Paul Gerrard wrote
at 16:34:49 on 17 July 2013
The Star heading has it spot on, this was the big fob-off. John Merry tried to fudge the issue about putting the Grange children in an adult facility by saying they already put 17 year olds in the Grange as part of transition. Will he now put 13 year olds in there, as part of their transition? At least he was open about the purely financial reasons behind the decision. Not so Peter Connor, who failed miserably to answer either of the questions USUC put to him (the same one really) by claiming that 'we're not making any cuts in mental health services'! Truly, the Civic Centre is now officially a parallel universe.
 
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