According to Salford Council's official statement of payments over £500, it has paid a company called Mediastill £172,900 between March 2012 and April 2013 (the last date of publicly declared payments) for `consultancy'.
Mediastill Ltd is a Liverpool based company with no phone number or website, only a registered office at an accountants, and is 75% owned by Jon Corner, Chief Executive at The Landing, Salford Council's `high-tech hub' for small and medium digital companies at MediaCityUK.
Jon Corner, the former head of Salford University's Media City operation, took up the post of Chief Executive of The Landing in January 2012, and, since March of that year until April this year, his company has received one payment for £13,300 followed by ten for £15,960, including VAT, over a 14 month period.
This works out at the equivalent of £12,350 per month, or £148,200 a year (inc VAT) - more than any other senior officer at Salford Council, except Chief Exec Barbara Spicer.
The Landing itself is a controversial project, beset by a huge five year £3.8million lease to Peel Holdings which owns the seven floor building.
Originally called the `Media Enterprise Centre', the costs for its creation rose from £8.4million in 2009 to £14.34million in 2012, with Salford Council's contribution towards the publicly funded `hub' more than doubling to £3.66milion over a period when £40million cuts to public spending were being sought. The other costs came from Europe (ERDF) and the now defunct North West Development Agency (NWDA).
Originally, Salford Council announced that there would be a `Make Media' community space in there but when The Landing opened that idea had been `cut' and, instead, there was a £120 a year private members bar called On The 7th (see previous Salford Star article for more details - click here)
Despite being created with public money, The Landing at Media City UK Ltd, (the company which runs the `hub') is a private limited company with directors Jon Corner, Salford Council Development Director Karen Hirst, Deputy Mayor David Lancaster and City Mayor Ian Stewart.
In November 2012 the company's Articles of Association were changed so that just one director could make decisions on behalf of the board (`the quorum for the transaction of the business of the directors shall be one'), which offers up all sorts of questions about accountability.
Indeed the whole project, including payments to Jon Corner's company, offers up lots of questions which the Salford Star attempted to put to both Jon Corner and Salford Council...
We asked Salford Council what the payments to Jon Corner's Mediastill company were for, and whether they were wages for Jon Corner.
We asked Salford Council why, if this was the case, the payments were being paid through his company Mediastill, rather than as a full time wage subject to PAYE?
We asked Salford Council whether it thought it right in these cost cutting times to be paying Jon Corner's company huge amounts of `consultancy' money?
We asked Salford Council why The Landing, despite being created with public money and having public sector directors, was a private limited company?
We also asked Jon Corner himself what the payments to Mediastill were for; what Mediastill actually does; whether he works full time for The Landing, and whether the payments were actually his salary.
Jon Corner didn't respond, and the only comment Salford City Council would make was that "The implication in the question below is that Salford City Council and Jon Corner are engaged in tax avoidance in relation to the development of The Landing. This is completely wrong."
No, Salford Council, the implication is that you are paying a massive wad for `consultancy' to a company/person that appears to be working full time, while you are slashing budgets by £100million and cutting services for some of the most vulnerable people in the city.
• The original advert for The Landing's Chief Executive Officer stated that "The Chief Executive is the Landing's senior executive and is responsible for the management of the Landing, including the development and delivery of its business plan, the effective and efficient running of all its services, ensuring that the budget is properly managed and that the Landing's key risks are understood, communicated to relevant parties and managed. In addition to managing the day business, the Chief Executive will shape and direct the future vision of the Landing, working with the Industry and key stakeholders in a collaborative manner to secure the long term future of the business."
That doesn't sound like a part-time job…or a `consultant's' job.
• Companies House lists Mediastill Ltd as having two directors – Jon Corner, who owns 75% of the shares, and Michelle Thompson, a lecturer, who both live at the same address in Liverpool.
• According to DeuDil, the last set of accounts (July 2012) for Mediastill Ltd show the company having a book value of £4,900, with £14,100 cash in the bank and liabilities of £30,700. Mediastill's latest accounts are `overdue' according to Companies House.