Given that there is barely any proper media left in Salford at the moment, you'd think that the City Council would be only too pleased to answer the concerns of its residents, filtered through the Salford Star.
For instance, we have old ladies panicking about the future of their homes – they don't know whether their houses are staying up or being demolished. So they've asked us to try and find out, which we've done. But the Council doesn't seem bothered about them.
We have a situation where 55% of Salford Council owned homes don't meet the decency standard, with virtually no prospect of any funding to bring them up to a proper standard. The Council doesn't seem to want to answer its residents' concerns about this.
Meanwhile, in Higher Broughton the Council is being brought to the High Court by its own residents in two days time – but it doesn't want to explain this either. And we have questions on lots of other stuff too but we're just being blanked.
The Salford council press office has promised us answers to at least some of these questions but so far we've heard nothing. We've no idea what their game is but surely a city council should be accountable to the local media somewhere along the line. Or perhaps it just prefers to put out bland propaganda through its own Life in Salford magazine – of which we still don't know the true costs because no-one's got back re our Freedom of Information request.
So where do we go to complain? Opposition councillors? Government Office North West? The Audit Commission? The Government? Europe?
We can only tell Salford people that the Council - whose wages and expenses and `refurbishment costs' we are paying - don't want to be accountable in the slightest to anyone. Yet if the Salford Star writes an article without including a Council quote the article is seen as `unbalanced'.
What the hell is going on in StALinFORD?
* Salford Council is not alone of course - we've also been waiting for five months for an answer to a question put to the Government's Homes and Communities Agency re the spending of public money, at least a year for a Freedom of Information request from the University of Salford...and nearly two years for a reply from our local MP Hazel Blears! British democracy - the best in the world eh?
** Amazing - since this was posted yesterday we've had replies to two questions and a Freedom of Information request answered.
***The Freedom of Information reply was unacceptable as it had half the information missing, so we've sent it back requesting an internal review/appeal.
**** And here's the answer to what the £131,509.93 refurbishment was for...
Councillor David Lancaster, Salford City Council's deputy leader said: "We're undergoing a refurbishment on the ground floor of the civic centre to enable us to bring our Human Resources team into one place providing a modern and fit for purpose service.
"This is part of our ongoing commitment to making efficiency savings across the council by improving the way we work and how we use our buildings.
"Since 2000, our office rationalisation has produced £3.2m of capital receipts, a further £5.8m is projected and £400,000 per annum on savings on running costs from closed buildings has already been achieved.
"Staff occupancy levels have improved from 19 square metres per person to 11 square metres per person and ongoing accommodation strategy improves efficiency and staff morale."
Hope that's clear...but taking 8sq metres off each person sounds like they're employing battery hens to us...
***** The other reply was in relation to Salix Homes and indecent homes which we will add to the original article