"I don't always agree with what the Government says, can I be quite clear on that..."
The Tory Party candidate has a major problem in that all of Salford Council's spending issues have resulted from Tory Government cuts which have seen £83.4million, or 42.4%, funding slashed off budgets, hitting some of the most vulnerable people in the city. So, as Conservative Party candidate does he agree with those cuts?
"I agree that substantial savings have had to be made" he says "The Coalition Government inherited a situation where the country was going down the plughole, that is why these savings have had to be imposed."
This isn't quite true is it? The Tories have embarked on an ideological war on the poor....look at the Bedroom Tax that has put 5,000 people into poverty, as just one example. The Tories are just not popular in Salford...
"I don't agree that is necessarily the case" he responds "I think what is ingrained in people is that they don't think that by voting Tory they can change the council. They think if they vote it won't make any difference. This is a golden opportunity for people to change things..."
Is he not just wasting his time because Labour Party candidate, Paul Dennett, is going to walk the election?
"Dennett is not a foregone conclusion" he insists "What concerns me is that he seems to talk about the past and that is no way to conduct any type of campaign. He has been the right hand man for Ian Stewart, the man behind the throne. He cannot come out in this campaign now and say `I will do things a different way'...he has had that opportunity as Strategic Mayor. You're going to get more of the same and probably even worse."
How would Robin Garrido change things? He says that, apart from a deputy, assistant mayors would go, and unpaid `special advisers' would be bought in a couple of days a month to ensure Council officers carry out policy.
The amount of managers in the Council would be slashed but new "directors on very good salaries" would be in charge of departments... "I believe that if you are paying someone that sort of money then, if they are worth it, they ought to be able to get on with the job without interference. I will be running the Council as a very professional organisation".
This is usually Tory-speak for the privatisation of services... "It doesn't mean getting rid of services to outside, necessarily" he argues "I don't mind who provides the services as long as they provide it in a satisfactory manner for the people of Salford."
He talks about managing the city "more efficiently" and cutting out "waste" but voted in favour of handing £19million to the RHS Garden in Worsley, including £9million to Peel Holdings... "I think it will bring investment into the city and it's a good thing that the people of Salford have something they can benefit from. We have very few facilities..."
How will they benefit? "By having some space"...But Salford's got loads of it – Barton Moss, Kersal Dale, The Meadow... "I think it's having somewhere pleasant to enjoy, and there should be some concessions for local people. I believe that Salford Quays and Media City have worked, and the RHS garden in Worsley will bring jobs in."
Apart from the `nasty party' image problem, there's also the fact that a Conservative Mayor will be faced with a hostile Labour Party majority of councillors who can block his finance budget and will attempt to block everything else... "They can block the budget but I can go to the people directly with a referendum, so there are ways out. I would hope that the majority party would accept the democratic decision and work with the Mayor, who has strong executive powers."
Will a Salford Mayor actually have relevance in the coming years, with a Greater Manchester Mayor arriving in 2017 and devolution meaning a lot of decisions will be taken out of the city?
"I don't accept that decisions are flowing out of Salford, they are coming closer to Salford because the Government has devolved decisions down to a lower level" he insists "The City Mayor will sit on that combined authority cabinet and will be a powerful voice for Salford."
On transparency and secrecy within the Council, Robin Garrido proposes open weekly meetings in person or online in which anyone can participate, and promises "a totally open administration".
On other issues, he would reinstate transport for disabled adults -"I thought it was an extremely stupid decision to make" - listen to what young people have to say and "land on the doorstep" of Tory Ministers to "talk" about cuts... "I don't always agree with what the Government says, can I be quite clear on that..."
Even so, as Conservative candidate he is representing the party that has slashed tens of millions of pounds from local services... "Most people would not talk about big areas of impact – the grass cutting, the state of the roads – but in terms of mainstream services people don't feel an impact."
That's because everything has been hived off, outsourced and privatised. So has Labour done a good job? "No, I don't think they've done a good job because they've used money in different ways and on pet projects..."
The current Labour Party regime has imposed all the Tory Government cuts, so what is the difference between Labour and Tory in Salford? "They've had to deal with savings but the way they have introduced those savings I don't necessarily agree with" he explains "Whatever money the Council has, it's the way that money is managed. You can't alter the amount of money but you can alter how that money is spent."
So, are Cameron and Osborne a hindrance or asset to Robin Garrido's campaign? "I think David Cameron is an asset...I believe that Cameron and Osborne are turning the economy of the country around, and I think people understand that and the difficult decisions that have had to be made. As Mayor I would have to make decisions sometimes that are unpalatable and I will explain those decisions...."
The full list of candidates standing for Salford City Mayor on 5th May...
Robin Garrido – Conservative Party
Wendy Olsen – Green Party - click here for interview
Paul Dennett – Labour Party - click here for ass interview
Owen Hammond – UKIP - click here for interview
*See also previous Salford Star article – Salford Mayor Election on brink of democratic disaster as no-one can name candidates or parties standing – click here
Photo by Steven Speed