Star date: 4th September 2013


"We're not rent-a-crowd, we're concerned parents"

"Disgusting"… "Insulting"…were just some of the words used by parents of children with disabilities, as Salford Mayor Ian Stewart put out an official press statement condemning "the usual rent-a-crowd placards and megaphones" he was expecting at a lobby they had organised to try to save The Grange respite centre.

The parents confronted Stewart last night as he attended a Youth Day event at Eccles Town Hall, where a war of words in the street ensued.

Full details here…

Salford Lobby of Mayor Ian Stewart outside Eccles Town Hall Salford Lobby of Mayor Ian Stewart outside Eccles Town Hall Salford Lobby of Mayor Ian Stewart outside Eccles Town Hall
Salford Lobby of Mayor Ian Stewart outside Eccles Town Hall Salford Lobby of Mayor Ian Stewart outside Eccles Town Hall Salford Lobby of Mayor Ian Stewart outside Eccles Town Hall
Salford Lobby of Mayor Ian Stewart outside Eccles Town Hall Salford Lobby of Mayor Ian Stewart outside Eccles Town Hall
click image to enlarge

Parents of children with disabilities were furious yesterday when they learned that Salford City Mayor Ian Stewart had issued an official statement (see here) branding them and their supporters `rent-a-crowd'.

The parents, trying to save services for their children at The Grange respite centre, had called for a lobby of the Mayor as he attended an event at Eccles Town Hall as part of Youth Day celebrations in the city.

And the Mayor responded by issuing a statement condemning the action, which he misguidedly attributed to trade union UNISON

"I am appealing to the UNISON local branch officials to call off their misguided lobby – better to sit down and discuss any issues like sensible adults, rather than resort to the usual rent-a-crowd placards and megaphones, which do not set a good example for our young people" he said.

The parents called his comments "insulting" and "disgusting"…

"The Mayor's press release is disgusting…is that what he thinks of us, a `rent-a-crowd'?" fumed Margaret Tunnacliffe who has two children with disabilities currently using The Grange

"The parents called this lobby, not UNISON, and I, as a parent, think that standing up for children with disabilities, is showing a good example" she added "The Mayor's comments are insulting. We're here to fight for our children because they cannot fight for themselves. The Grange is the only place in Salford for our children with disabilities, and without it families would break down, it's as simple as that."

Another parent, Dave Thornley, was also incensed…

"Calling us `rent-a-crowd' is ridiculous" he said "We're `not rent-a-crowd', we're concerned parents. The press release was measured, written from a political point of view. Turning around and telling us that everything that UNISON has said is untrue is wrong because it's not."

Last night, outside Eccles Town Hall, parents and supporters confronted Stewart as he arrived at the Youth Day event, where he repeatedly told them, as in the press release, that they had been subjected to misinformation by UNISON…

"The unions have been told that The Grange is not closing" he said "Watch my lips, it's untrue. Nobody's closing The Grange."

There are no proposals to close The Grange as a building – but there are proposals to close it as a centre for children with disabilities who need short term breaks, and re-open it as a centre for children with long term needs who are currently receiving that care outside of the city.

The Council is further proposing that children who go to The Grange will be either sent to `specialist' foster carers if under 14, or put in Granville, currently an adult facility, if between 14 and 17.

Parents have questioned the ability of foster carers to cope with under 14 year olds who have autism or challenging behaviour, as well as the arrangements and safeguarding issues associated with putting 14 year old children into an adult facility (for full details see previous Salford Star articles click here and click here).

Last night, UNISON, parents and the Mayor were embroiled in a war of words and semantics over the proposals…with UNISON putting out a leaflet in response to the Mayor's press released allegations of `misinformation'. The printed words spilled into vocal attacks outside Eccles Town Hall. 

One parent told the Mayor that "My family will never get respite because my daughter will go to Granville as a 17 year old adult and my son will be 15 and will also go to Granville. If you're talking about children and adults going on different days, how will my family get respite?"

As Stewart was about to answer, a UNISON rep shouted the answer that "It will be mixed"… and the Mayor rounded on him…

"Did you just say it will be mixed?" he shouted "I'll tell you what, I shall check that out and if you're right I'll admit it openly but if it's not you're in trouble…"

"It's in your own report" said the rep "It says there will be `a mix of age ranges'"

"All of this is being made harder to deal with by people giving misinformation" Stewart added "The officers better tell me that the allegation that was made before is untrue because I'll be very, very angry if I find out that it's true."

At the end of the ten minute street `discussion', Stewart agreed to meet with parents to listen to their concerns.

After the lobby, UNISON treasurer Ameen Hadi told the Salford Star that the Mayor was just playing with semantics…

"No-one has said that The Grange is closing - but it is closing as a short term centre if you want to look at it like that" he said.

Ameen also questioned the legitimacy of some of the Mayor's allegations…

"He's stated that by making The Grange become a long term stay centre he'll be able to bring 12 young people back from outside Salford, yet The Grange only takes five young people so I don't know where he's got his maths from" he said "I think everyone is in favour of bringing these children back to Salford but why should they be brought back at the expense of children who need short term breaks?"

"The Mayor also says that no children will be mixed with adults but in the Council's report to UNISON it states that there will be `a mix of age ranges'" he added "If you've got a unit [Granville] that has forty beds and you let children in, you maybe fill six beds – are the rest of the beds going to be left empty? On the Council's own terms it doesn't make economic sense. And if it is mixed, how are they going to guarantee safeguarding?

"If you take Margaret's children – one under 18 and one over 18 – her family can't get respite if they are proposing to allocate adults and children on different days" he explained.

"What surprises me is that the Mayor is not supposed to make a decision until 23rd September but if you read the press release it sounds like he's made the decision already" Ameen revealed "That can't be right when he's supposed to be listening to everyone's views. But maybe he will listen now…

"I don't want to score a pyrrhic victory to say `The Mayor doesn't listen' - I'd rather he listened and changed his view" he concluded "There's nothing for UNISON to gain, or the parents to gain, by saying `I told you so, the Mayor doesn't keep his promises'. I'd rather the Mayor reconsidered and did the right thing, for a change."

Also attending the Youth Day event last night was John Merry, Assistant Mayor for Children and Young People, who refused to back up the Mayor's slurs on the campaign. Did he think that those who organised the lobby were a rent-a-crowd or concerned parents?

"I didn't say that" he responded "I can't comment on what the Mayor said. All I'm saying is that I don't think this was the appropriate event to lobby. There are other opportunities rather than this particular event, which has not been organised by the Council but by young people, that's why I'm disappointed."

On their way into the Youth Day event, young people were handed leaflets which stated… "It is fantastic that Salford's young people are going to be rewarded as part of Youth Day and we congratulate all of them on what they have achieved…

"We are sorry if it appears that we are here to disrupt that celebration, but Youth Day is about giving young people a voice – we need to make sure that disabled young people have a voice too…"

See also previous Salford Star articles on The Grange - click here and click here

Photos by Steven Speed

at 20:30:45 on 09 September 2013
it is plain and has been for a long time that this council has no regard repect care or empathy for children with disabities their families or the staff who care for them look at what they have done to their school the whole lot should resign...soon
Mac wrote
at 14:41:40 on 09 September 2013
We must rise up against the cartel who are running and ruining this once great city of ours and take are fight to the highest level, collective refusal to pay council tax, demonstrations at all council meetings lobbying of all party's to find out their true intentions and finally the attempt to create the "salford Star" political party and seek to get a salford star representative elected to the council at the earliest moment
Ex-unison member wrote
at 14:40:58 on 09 September 2013
From: Elaine Clapham [mailto:Elaine.Clapham@salfordcityunison.org.uk] Sent: 29 August 2013 16:06 Subject: FW: Save the Grange Campaign- Lobby the Mayor 5.30 pm Tuesday 3rd September, Eccles Community Hall Importance: High TO: ALL MEMBERS Lobby the Mayor. 5.30 pm Tuesday 3rd of September. Eccles Community Hall, The Town Hall, Church Street, Eccles, M30 0LH For Salford Youth Day the Council have arranged a community celebration in Eccles with the Mayor attending. This month the Mayor will decide whether to close The Grange Residential Home for short break care for disabled children. Children over 14 are being asked to use an Adult unit. Would any other kids be treated this way? What about safeguarding? Parents have been asking what happens to those families who cannot put both children in respite at the same time? What about family breakdown caused by this cut? Parents, staff and other professionals all oppose this cruel cut in services. Support the Campaign and attend the lobby. To see Unison’s full report please see attachment. If you need more information please contact the Branch Office. Regards Ameen Hadi Treasurer Salford City Unison 443/445 Chorley Road, Swinton, M27 9UQ
Michael Felse wrote
at 20:26:45 on 08 September 2013
Having read some venomous comments on here is it any wonder our elected Mayor Ian appears to distrust the public? It is time to respect our Mayor's position and discuss issues instead of street attacking. I have been more critical than most about Labour and our Mayor, but if we do not want a Tory Government next time we must start talking up local politics. This means now in Salford by forgiving, forgetting and by Councillors making local services our first priority.
The truth is in the picture? wrote
at 19:57:45 on 06 September 2013
Mr Mayor Pointy finger says FUCK YOU ALL, how dare you challenge his dictatorship (sorry I mean office) says it all really when a mayor needs to show that much aggression.
Ex springwood employee wrote
at 19:57:31 on 06 September 2013
The council will never listen to concerns people have. Even people employed by the council. As I was. Unions tried to speak to John Merry over the problems at the special needs school, but he doesn't give a toss. Lesley Roberts the so called head of Springwood School in Swinton, has got away with ruining what was a good school. Around 35 staff left since she came, 7 board of governors resigned since she's been there.Shes a bully and a control freak. Staff off with stress. All this and more was put to John Merry yet nothing was done. She's even said the wheelchairs and the children's equipment which they need and rely on were cluttering up her corridors , what a disgusting comment. A photographer came into school she asked staff who were with the children in wheelchair's to move to the back of the hall because she didn't want them in the photo. Another degusting comment. A staff member was heartbroken, as were a lot of staff upset. because she is a mother of a child with severe disabilities whose only way of getting about is by using a wheelchair. These people should not get away with their disgusting comments and certainly shouldn't be in the job of working with the young and vulnerable people of Salford. get them out.
Labour No More wrote
at 13:51:40 on 06 September 2013
I'm with Bob and Mac on this. We should all refuse to pay council tax to this rotton city , and stuff the self-serving council bastards . Let's fight them and their ignorance , arrogance and incompetence , People .
margaret tunnacliffe wrote
at 04:28:05 on 06 September 2013
To John Merry you agreed you would meet only parents after REFUSING to meet with parents AND the rest of the Campaigners for the Grange through emails i had sent to your office.
Labour all me life, but now?????????? wrote
at 20:54:18 on 05 September 2013
Shocked, I don't see what you do. I see an angry BULLY who has been exposed for the shower of shite he is. Resign???? LOL don't make me laugh, people like him have no morals or scruples. The Labour party in Salford should EXPEL him, because they need to understand that if they field him as a candidate next time they WILL loose, he is not Labour he is a TW4T. Even John Merry did not scoop as low as this bastard has, and I thought we had it bad with him?? Seems it was better the devil we know!
bob wrote
at 20:54:15 on 05 September 2013
I Note about not paying the council, well we only pay it by consent, there is no law that say you must pay council tax, there is a legal duty on the council to provide value for money to the council tax payer. So if we all stood together, not pay our council tax and say the council has failed in it duty what can they do ? Oh and Mr Felse crawl back into the hole you came out of you creepy man
bob wrote
at 20:54:10 on 05 September 2013
Maybe Ian could use the £50k being paid to Mr Vickers to keep him quite after he was told to go. Will £50k be offered to all council employee who want to resign. Today another labour councilor has ripped up their labour party membership, it's starting to all fall apart. Maybe by may next year there will be enough opposition to get rid of these clowns and put some of them in prison.
Shocked wrote
at 17:48:05 on 05 September 2013
I read this article last night but have held off commenting until today as what I would have written would probably not have been put up due to the feelings I had and the way in which I would have expressed them. So now I have calmed down a bit I will have my say. The main picture speaks a thousand words it shouts contempt, control freakery, and shows a sence of anger from Mr Stewart that anybody would have the nerve to challenge him or his council. To call these folks "rent-a-crowd" is disgusting and extremely belittling to those who feel an injustice is being done to them, standards exist for people carrying out public duty and I think that the aggrieved in this case need to be maybe looking at complaining under standards rules. However this should be no more than a formal process because the mayor should be calling a press conference at the town hall where he should appolagise and offer his resignation which should be accepted. The position of city mayor in Salford, is with it's current holder now a political disgrace, Mr Mayor please do the hounerable thing and step down your position in now untenable.
Michael Felse wrote
at 17:47:21 on 05 September 2013
Come on Ian - Save The Grange - as Mayor please find a way in your Council Budget for this caring thing.
Fred Hampton wrote
at 13:42:58 on 05 September 2013
The only rent-a-crowd involved are the council. Led by the mayor Ian Stewart ("rent" £60,000+) per year. His response is patronising and insulting to the parents. He should be directing his criticism at the government and his own council for cutting much needed services for the community. Not surprised at all. These services are not free. They are paid for by every council-tax payer and tax payer. Instead, this money is lining the pockets of councillors and officers who provide little or nothing in the way of service or value for money to the people of Salford. There are a some good councillors and some good officers but they are overwhelmed by their dysfunctional colleagues.
mac wrote
at 13:42:53 on 05 September 2013
This mans position is untenable and he must be removed from office with immediate effect. A online petition must be started and a collective refusal to pay out council tax until such time as this is done
tom nolan wrote
at 13:42:18 on 05 September 2013
.why vote in a person to represent Salford when he is not from here in the 1st place.come on Salford people think and research before you vote in anyone..he is only interested in his bank account not you....
Salford Star wrote
at 13:42:08 on 05 September 2013
John Merry tweeted the Star last night to say that he won't post a comment on here because he has "no intention of joining the slanging match" but wants it to be known that he hasn't refused to meet parents, as has been written in a previous comment. Indeed, he's meeting parents on Friday.
Stella o'neill wrote
at 17:05:19 on 04 September 2013
Personally I think the council has gone even more "backwards" since we've had the lovely mayor. I have a disabled child and Ian Stewart has not only helped jeopardise her future in school with the cuts of teachers of the deaf but also in life in general my opinion is get rid! He's good for nothing,doesn't help in the slightest towards our disabled children nor does he try to.
margaret tunacliffe wrote
at 17:05:15 on 04 September 2013
Let me say one thing,if the Mayor let's these proposals go through then he DOES NOT care about the vulnerable children that will have to leave the GRANGE. To Councillor Merry...I sent many emails to you asking you to meet with me other parents and Campaigners regarding the grange and you REFUSED so we didn't really have any other choice. All I can say is we apologise for doing this protest on Youth Day and we strongly believe Youth Day should be about all children whether they be disabled or not.
Ian O'Brien wrote
at 17:05:05 on 04 September 2013
It is clear that this man has absolutely no respect for his own position as Mayor of on of the most historically important cities on earth, and even less for the people of that city. He doesn't even know what is in the reports to which he puts his name? It seems clear that this little man; large of ambition, and yet so small of inspiration,cares nothing at all about the City Of Salford, nor its people, and much less it's most vulnerable children. He is unfit, along with the rest of this so called Labour Council. Next time around I will be encouraging everybody I know to vote Conservative in local elections. Not because they will be any less incompetent, egotistical, corrupt or greedy - but just to send a message to Labour in Salford that the days of red rosettes and donkeys are over. If we cannot rely on the Labour part to look after the interests of the poor - why the hell should we care what colour tie they wear? They are all Tories at the end of the day. I would rather Tories who call themselves, than a Thatcher clone spouting Marx.
alan tunnacliffe wrote
at 17:03:50 on 04 September 2013
brilliant stephen the truth always comes out eventually its took a while but the mayor and his MERRY men are now being found out for what they are liars and hypocrites thank you very much for showing the people of salford that
at 17:02:52 on 04 September 2013
Mayor Greedy is a master of Shitespeak , carefully honed during his tenure as the Greedy MP for Eccles .
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