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SHOCKING DOCUMENT REVEALS SALFORD COUNCIL ATTITUDE TO FREEDOM OF INFORMATION REQUESTS
 

Star date: 14th February 2018 

SO MUCH FOR SALFORD MAYOR'S PLEDGE TO 'CREATE A MORE TRANSPARENT ORGANISATION'

A document of response logs to a Salford Star Freedom of Information request to Salford City Council - probably emailed inadvertently - reveals the shocking attitude of the Council towards transparency, breaking City Mayor Paul Dennett's own pledges.

Salford Council held the information requested but, despite its own Freedom of Information team being concerned about 'transparency', the so-called neutral Council Solicitor and Monitoring Officer, Miranda Carruthers-Watt, sent a response withholding the details anyway.

Full details here...


Stalinford Salford
click image to enlarge

'After discussions with the rest of the FOI team we are concerned that if we do not supply the information to the customer the council is not appearing helpful or transparent...' Salford Council FOI Team


When Salford City Mayor, Paul Dennett, was elected nearly two years ago he promised "a fresh approach to governance"...

"It was quite clear during the election process that transparency and accountability, or at least the public perception of those sorts of issues, is very much important amongst our electorate" he said "...So it's incumbent on us all...to tackle some of those issues around transparency, accountability and engaging the public in how we do our business."

Further details of how Salford Council 'does its business' regarding transparency can be revealed after a log of a Salford Star Freedom of Information request was emailed, probably inadvertently, to us.

Back in November 2017, the Star editor, Stephen Kingston, requested details of all land sold by the Council over the last three years, together with prices and postcodes for the land. The Council responded in December with a list of the land and a few postcodes but no prices.

The Council stated that the prices were 'publicly' available on the Land Registry – but the cost would be £3 per site, for 39 sites. The Star does not have that sort of money.

The Salford Star editor complained and asked for an internal review, which subsequently upheld the original Council decision not to release the information. However, together with the response from Salford Council Solicitor and Monitoring Officer, Miranda Carruthers-Watt, an internal log was included which gives a window into how Freedom of Information requests are dealt with.

The log traces all the correspondence connected with the request, including an internal email from Salford Council/Urban Vision's Peter Openshaw from 5th December... "It's publicly available so we don't have to supply. The fact he has to pay is irrelevant. No issue with adding postcodes where we have them"…

...And further ones on 7th December "Let's wrap that up in an answer to him. He will need to do some journalism research... We hold the sales prices but as they are publicly available he can get them from the LR [Land Registry]."

The log then sets out 'Two scenarios'...

1. Withhold our original response to customer to look for the information via land register; Mr Kingston will have to pay for each search.
Environmental Information Regulation 6(1)(b) information is already publicly  available and easily accessible. Environmental Information Regulation 8

2. Request that the business area supplies the information (land sold by the council) and keeps this updated for future requests. I have found other councils that have provided this information and some that have refused it.

Below this is a plea from the Council's own Freedom of Information team...

"If we get the information requested from the business area we will be transparent as this information is regarding public money" it states "After discussions with the rest of the FOI team we are concerned that if we do not supply the information to the customer the council is not appearing helpful or transparent which is one of the council's 'great eight'. 'We will take action to create a more transparent, effective and efficient organisation (no.7)'..."

In the response to the Salford Star from Miranda Carruthers-Watt, this advice was binned and the Council upheld its original decision to withhold the information. So much for Dennett's insistence that he would be tackling "some of those issues around transparency, accountability and engaging the public in how we do our business."

There's another statement too from the Council's FOI team... "If we withhold our original decision Mr Kingston with probably complain to the ICO [Information Commissioner's Office]..."

And that is exactly what the Salford Star has done – enclosing this log, of course.


See also previous related Salford Star articles...

Salford Council Wins Stalin Award for Open and Democratic Government - click here

Salford Council Freedom of Information Response Comes With Everything Redacted - click here

Information Commissioner Steps In To Monitor Salford Council's Abysmal Freedom of Information Record - click here 


Phil wrote
at 19:05:01 on 17 February 2018
Terry, Mayor Dennett doesn't need to justify anything. Social housing isn't just for the needy. It is for working people and the unemployed. If anything, Mayor Dennett is showing the calibre of man that he is by staying there. He is a socialist. I believe that socialists frown upon private home ownership. If that is the case then Mayor Dennett is clearly leading by example. For this I applaud him. And so should you. I imagine that the other residents of his tower block feel fantastic knowing that the leader of Salford resides there. On a purely practical level, can you imagine that there will be any anti social neighbours living in that block? I know that I can't. Now compare that block with Spruce, Fitzwarren or Mulberry Courts. I am one hundred percent certain that the residents of those buildings would, for the majority, love to have the Mayor living with them.
 
wrote
at 19:04:10 on 17 February 2018
Terry - does this not say a lot about the Salford Labour Party members who select these leaders. Do they stop to ask themselves why or who or what.
 
Phil wrote
at 19:02:29 on 17 February 2018
Oh, and one more thing, Terry; yes, the Mayor earns a reasonable wage, as you rightly say, sixty thousand pounds plus per year. But ... but let me tell you, in this day and age that is not a lot of money. Just think about it. I mean, a large percentage of that will be taken in income tax. Then he has to pay council tax, and there's also his electricity bill ( after all, it's been a long, cold Winter ) and he has to pay his water bill and buy food and toiletries. After all of that has been accounted for ( sorry about this, but I left his five grand a year rent out ), he'll probably not have that much of his salary left. Maybe just a few hundred pounds. And think about this; this man runs our great city. He is its Father. Its George Washington. There is a hell of a lot of responsibility in such a position. It is not for the lilly livered or the faint hearted. You have to have Rudie Giullianni spirit to do such a job. Not be a Walter Mitty like Felse, or a never will be like Ferrer. In the final analysis. The old saying Cometh the hour, Cometh the man, is true. And we have Dennett, and he has cometh.
 
Terry wrote
at 09:08:32 on 17 February 2018
I would like to hear some justification from Paul Dennett as to why he resides in a flat meant for the needy whilst on £60k plus a year. Can he justify it?
 
Mary ferrer wrote
at 15:35:32 on 15 February 2018
They have the information,why not share it.Everything has been be clocked in secrecy."Open and transparent"Don't think our mayor or the rest of our council know the meaning of them words.
 
Stephen Kingston wrote
at 09:52:52 on 15 February 2018
See Grumpy's comment below...We don't want to look at one site, we want to look at them all as part of a wider investigation that affects a lot of people in Salford - and the £139 cost is more than I get paid in a week for doing the Salford Star. The point is that Salford Council has the information in front of them but aren't releasing it - in my opinion, just to be awkward.
 
Grumpy wrote
at 09:47:58 on 15 February 2018
Hear hear Phil. To the author - Surely you could afford £3 to take a look at one of the items to see what you were dealing with. All we have here is a rant based on your theory. Poor. Very poor. Qu more swearing.
 
wrote
at 09:47:32 on 15 February 2018
Mr Felsey mentions the word CRISIS. If sacking 100 Nursery workers to save the Council is not a crisis I will eat my hat. It seems just a question of how long before it will be sacking another 100, then another and another. Who can we blame. Never have I seen things this bad in Salford. Is it that bad.
 
Mary ferrer wrote
at 08:21:40 on 15 February 2018
Why are they refusing to give information,have they something to hide? They make major decisions behind closed doors.They have entered into projects that have a major impact on the city finances.
 
Mary ferrer wrote
at 08:14:47 on 15 February 2018
Phil,I note no surname.if it wasn't for Salford Star we wouldn't have a clue what our Council and our elected members were up to.
 
wrote
at 21:25:45 on 14 February 2018
Salford council and a lot of the arseholes they employ have always had a nasty streak and will go out of their way to make things awkward for anyone who stands up to them or speaks out. Why do you think the Salford Star often has problems getting people to speak out? It is because people know how nasty the council can be. Problem with your housing? Problem with adaptations to it if you are disabled? OPEN YOUR MOUTH AND THEY WILL MAKE THNGS REALLY DIFFICULT FOR YOU. Dont you think that the council should try to bulid bridges with the Salford Star and not exclude them from things other press is a part of? Don't you think they should be more transparent and forthcoming with information? If you ask someone a reasonable question and they refuse to answer, saying that the information is "sensitive", what does that make you think? It makes you think they have something to hide. I sometimes think that the level of built in incompetence in the council is to help keep the incompetents in a job. Why deal with something with one phone call, letter or email when you can spin it out with 3,4 or more and therefore boost your figures of the number of enquiries you have handled? How many of these enquiries are just shuffling about and pissing about with one actual communication? It is time for the council to stop being so petty and to start to talk to the Salford Star. If good or positive things happen, then the Salford Star will report on them. The reason so much is negative is because the council is full of incompetent, petty, vindictive morons,
 
Stephen Kingston wrote
at 20:33:53 on 14 February 2018
See Phil's comment below - No, I don't f**ng 'capice'- this is public money, and public authorities have a duty to be transparent about it and be accountable for it. A journalist's job is, amongst other things, to challenge authorities and make them accountable. Something a lot of 'journalists' have somehow forgotten. If politicians and officers deliberately go out of their way to avoid being transparent and accountable, that is not my problem; it's theirs. This is not a 'war' against Salford Council, it's a community centred media publication trying to get some information and truth. Unfortunately, as previous articles have shown, it is certain people within the Council and other places that have declared 'war'. Hate to say it but when John Merry was Leader of the Council it wasn't like this - ever since the Mayor system arrived this has been the result. No, the Salford Star doesn't sit in people's pockets or up their arse, maybe that's our problem - and we're proud of it. Oh, and skint with it.
 
Phil wrote
at 20:19:24 on 14 February 2018
Look, for my humble opinion, if you want the Mayor, and Salford City Council to respond to your FOI requests, then you have to treat them with a bit of respect, and not the way that you do. Isn't it obvious, people, and by that I mean reasonable people, they respond favourably when they are not being pilloried at every turn by what they will understandably have come to see as a thorn in the flesh. For my opinion, Steve, your journalism is great, but you're a victim of your own talent. You're just too bolshy for the people running Salford to want anything to do with you. Like I say, your articles are some of the best that I've ever read, but you're too confrontational, too lacking in diplomacy, and understandably the people in charge see you as being against them. Ultimately, I can see it from their point of view. You remind me, with your relentless journalistic war on Salford City Council as being somewhat similar to a man who goes into a cafe and is forever compaining about the food. It's either too cold, or overcooked, or the ingredients are too cheap; and maybe the customer has a point, but equally, you can also understand the staff being so sick of him that they spit in his food. It's the exact same thing with the Salford Star. Quite understandably they are not going to do you any favours. Not after the never ending criticism. For my opinion you need to eat a bit of humble pie, apologise for being the Salford version of Jack Klugman's Quincy, and get with the project, Capice?
 
Arnold Rimmer wrote
at 15:37:44 on 14 February 2018
At least it shows the council staff want to do the right thing even though it looks like they have been prevented from doing so.
 
Dave wrote
at 15:37:38 on 14 February 2018
What is needed in Salford is a Judicial Reviewer. This is a new job I just dreamed up. This grand unpaid post would exist to challenge under judicial review procedure, each and every daft and wrong move made by the council. Some legal procedure knowledge would be helpful, but more important, the person would have to be skint and not own any assets. That way, all the proceedings issue costs would be free. This would be a field day for all the lawyers who do this type of work. From a friend who works at Manchester Town Hall, where Salford and Manchester have a combined legal team, I have it that all this type of work is sent out to private legal firms who know how to charge. After a few run ins , the council would soon get the idea that they are on a good hiding to nothing.I would do this myself if I could get free issue in the courts, but I cannot as I am working and would have to pay. These can be a couple of hundred quid a go, but free for people on low income.
 
Felsey wrote
at 15:36:03 on 14 February 2018
Can the hole get any deeper. I call upon Mayor Dennett to resign now and face the public vote in the wake of this week's shocking news. Is he afraid to let Salford open up a crisis challenge?
 
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