Star date: 26th March 2010

SALFORD COUNCIL BANS COMMUNITY FROM FUNDING SALFORD STAR… as freedom of speech goes out of the window.

Salford's community has been banned from financially supporting the Salford Star to get the magazine back into print.

Salford Council and its legal team has instructed representatives from the community who are responsible for handing out grants to community groups that they would be "breaking the law" if the Salford Star received any funding -  because it "tends to criticise authority, in particular singling out Salford Council and individual councillors"

Full story here…

DAILY MIRROR 26th March 2010
click image to enlarge

Representatives from Salford's community were told last night that they would be "breaking the law" if they agreed to fund the Salford Star.

The Salford Star applied to three of Salford's eight `community committees' for half the costs of producing another print issue of the magazine. The committees are each supposed to be `empowered' with their  own budget, devolved from the council tax, to fund local projects which benefit the community.

But representatives from these committees who sit on `budget sub groups' were sent an e-mail with "definitive guidance" from Sue Lightfoot, Salford's Director of Community Health & Social Care, stating that "the applications for funding by The Salford Star are not supported on the basis that the organisation has not met the criteria laid down by the city council to safeguard the expenditure of public money."

A further report gave the reasons that the Salford Star "is overtly political in nature", "does not take a balanced view" and that it "tends to criticise authority, in particular singling out Salford Council and individual councillors".

East Salford Community Committee's `budget sub group' met last night and was instructed by Salford Council and its legal team not to fund the Salford Star as it would be in breach of the Local Government Act.

In a letter to the budget sub groups the Salford Star has vigorously refuted all of Salford Council's claims, arguing that the magazine is totally independent, is not aligned to any political party, and never tells anyone how to vote.

"The magazine does have an agenda - to give the community a voice and to hold public bodies up to account" the letter added "We would argue that this is something worth striving for, and that the concept of empowerment is included in many Council documents. The Council might not like the voices or the empowerment but we do not believe that this makes the magazine `overtly political' in any way. Indeed, we would argue that the Council's own publicity machine and magazine only gives one perspective - does that make it `overtly political' or just `subliminally political'?"

The award winning Salford Star magazine has been produced as an online only publication for the last year due to lack of public funding and, given that only one third of Salford's residents have direct access to the internet, has been striving to get back into print ever since. The community itself has raised over £2500 towards this end from donations and sales of merchandise.

The last time the Salford Star applied for such funding from the community in 2007, Salford Council also intervened, re-writing its constitution for `devolved money for publications' and ripping up the Star's application before the community reps could even see it. This time, the community committee in East Salford voted to be able to see the application, which was allowed, but it was powerless to support it.

The chair of Vertical Villages residents group stood up at the East Salford Community Committee meeting last night and said it was a "sorry day for freedom of speech".


• Salford Council continues to produce its own Life In Salford monthly magazine at a total public cost of £28,000 per issue. Salford Star applied to the community for £3,500.

• Sue Lightup, Salford Council's new Director of Community Health & Social Care (and wife of Labour Councillor and mayor Roger Lightup), who sent out the e-mail warning the community not to support the Salford Star application, has only been in post since the beginning of March when Salford Council issued a press statement saying that her new role included "helping more people to get involved in decision making at a local level".

• Brian Wroe, Salford Council's former Assistant Director of Community Services sent out an e-mail to community reps a few days before he resigned from his post stating "I have expressed a view that the Salford Star…should not be supported by Council monies…Applications will have to be deferred to await the outcome of deliberation by Lead Member and thereafter the Leader". This implies that the decision to refuse funding for the Salford Star was being ultimately made by Salford City Council Leader, John Merry – and that the decision was not based on legal grounds at all but on political grounds.

• In the report sent to community reps by the Council two examples were given of the Salford Star being `overtly political'. The first was an article on the apparent u-turn on green belt destruction by Planning Lead Member Councillor Derek Antrobus, with an election around the corner in a marginal seat. All media in Salford printed the u-turn as fact. The Salford Star was the only publication to question its validity… The u-turn was not a Council decision, and had been issued as a Labour Party press release. Who was being `overtly political'?

The second example given was that the Salford Star backed the Hazel Must Go! campaign in line with criticism of Hazel Blears by 99.9% of Salford residents (and plenty of Labour Party councillors and members) at the time of the expenses scandal.

In the letter sent to community reps the Salford Star stated that "The magazine is completely independent...to the point where we cannot even tell people not to vote for the BNP or Hazel Blears for that matter, or even tell them to vote for the Hazel Must Go! candidate. As was seen during the Congestion Charge vote, the Salford Star stayed neutral - we do not tell people how to vote or think."

The Salford Star has backed many campaigns, including opposing the closure of St George's High School (subsequently supported by the Schools Adjudicator) and the campaign to save the priceless Tree of Knowledge mural which was due to be bulldozed within 24 hours (subsequently saved and listed). Were these `overtly political' campaigns too? The Star asked the Council to define the term `overtly political' – and never got a response.

• The Salford Star has the right to appeal against Salford Council's decision to ban the community from funding the magazine – it can appeal to Salford Council's ruling Labour Party Cabinet.

• Or it can launch a legal challenge costing around £25,000…

Updates on this story here...

Updates on this story here 

Update on the Salford Star appeal here... June 2010

 Further details on Salford Council's spend on its Life In Salford `magazine' here...

Ed Ward wrote
at 21:42:54 on 27 February 2011
So the Star 'tends to criticise authority '.Quite right , or the People would never get to know how those criticised behave . The majority of those 'in authority' are corrupt , self -serving cheats , swindlers and liars .A few are in jail , the majority think they have got away with it , but the People won't forget .Thanks to the Salford Star for telling the truth about 'authority'.
From over seas... wrote
at 14:22:20 on 04 April 2010
It's amazing to see you all still fighting... freedom of speech won't exist in any way soon. We won't recognise our own towns in the near future. It's just turning into one big mush of over-priced living. The rich get richer, while the average Joe, well..who cares about us? Good luck. Love and attitude from Australia x x x
Mark Armstrong wrote
at 11:50:40 on 27 March 2010
I can sympathise with your points of view, however the population of Salford have a habit of voting Labour without questioning or evaluating their intentions or agenda. They constantly spend ludicrous amounts of money on any pet project they create, they can only do this because they have the majority vote and can bulldoze anything through because of this. If you don't like your local government use your vote on the 6th of May and vote for someone you think will make a difference. There are at least six independents standing for election in Salford, have a look at what they are saying.
brianfkirkham wrote
at 04:52:59 on 27 March 2010
to mr/mrs blank thanks for the clarification I was thinking primarily of fertiliser when i wrote that end piece...not cod and chips! My position is still the same tho. Just because the paper tends to criticise mostly council or developers does not really give the executive the right to run roughshod over decision-making of the committees they chose to set up! We Need a Free Press in Salford. Otherwise it will just be the case that the local community will just lose its voice...Councillors talk about their "Pride" in Salford, If thats the case surely they would work alongside those contributing to the star instead of trying to constantly knock it. The case of the Advertiser Moving lock stock and barrel to Oldham in the near future simply reinforces the need for a newspaper reflecting the area its supposed to represent.
joe wrote
at 21:48:08 on 26 March 2010
why wont the council put money in to the mag so we can have that posted through are doors aswell something decent to read. to political and contravercial it gives salfordarians a voice in the community and lets people know whats goin on in and and around salford anything whats beneficial to the people of salford is a no go theres nobody more contravercial than the government see if they can fund it. joe c
alice searle wrote
at 21:21:01 on 26 March 2010
The Salford Star can take consolation from the psychological fact that, when people feel scared they get defensive and then they try to ban you. How many famous people do we know who have been sent to goal for speaking 'the truth.' Shutum up or lockum up.' This is a 'classic' response when those with 'shaky' power feel threatened. 'The Star' gets too near 'the mark' with its straight speaking journalism. If the holders of the purse were confident that their policies were fair, just and beneficial for the people in Salford, they would not need to to be afraid of this magazine. They would welcome it as a magazine of the people and feel proud that they have such such an award-winning publication in their city. Finally, if you are old enough to remember the Private Eye court case you will feel reassured in you fight for recognition.
Dawn wrote
at 19:57:47 on 26 March 2010
Wow, have they heard of Freedom Of The Press, if there is any seemingly negative articles, then they are throughly researched and are only printed in the public's interest which is part of the PCC Editor's code of practice. Its not like the articles are made up, they are the truth, so if they don't like things that are written, don't do them in the first place! Sounds like censorship to me, or blackmail for good press. What part of funding the mag is illegal? Nothing I have read is slanderous etc. It's the most ridiculous thing I have heard in my life! They should bear in mind that as a student I have had so much help from the Salford Star getting work experience where as every other local publication doesn't want to help students! Never mind a reply to say sorry we don't do work experience
nigel pivaro wrote
at 19:49:10 on 26 March 2010
If they were not so inept, inefficient and exclusive in their policies and decisions then we would not have to criticise. As it is we are duty bound to expose their shortcomings and there is plenty of material to go at.
john. wrote
at 19:49:00 on 26 March 2010
todays daily mirror page 8...... council newspapers are killing off free speech, and councils spent £257 MILLION last year, "communicating with their voters" salford star can rest its case.
john wrote
at 19:48:47 on 26 March 2010
well there is a few old sayings spring to mind here like the truth hurts .you can kid some people some of the time but you cant kid all of the people all of the time. the people of salford are far too street wise to believe all that is wrote in the monthly propoganda mag. but what realy annoys me is the council must think we are all stupid and gullable enough to be taken in by all the sweetness and light that is supposed to be salford .no what we need is good hard nosed investigative journalism and where do we find this the salford star .but the council have never been big on giving the people of salford what they want but they are very good at imposing their wants and wishes regardless of what we think .but please remember polling day is not too far away thats when we get a voice so please use your vote .because if there is one thing this city needs it is new blood in the council offices labour as been in power far too long in salford and have become very very smug in this position ITS TIME FOR CHANGE
David Henry wrote
at 19:47:06 on 26 March 2010
This is absolutely appalling. Perhaps the councillors who get their free weekly columns in the Salford Advertiser would also like to withdraw their contributions to that publication too? Shame on you Salford City Council. Time for action. Let's Boycott our co-operation of this dictatorship of a New Labour council which wishes to censor the freedom of discourse amongst those it was democratically elected to represent.
Chirs D wrote
at 15:41:40 on 26 March 2010
Life in Salford magazine gives a bias view of what the council are doing, what we want to know is what they are not doing! This is a sad day for the Salford Star and it wont just be Salford Council who are eroading peoples freedoms, this will be happening all over the country. I think that it shows a deep misstrust of the general public and also that local councils are affraid of critisism What we need is revolution, Rise up against our evil oppressors!!!
at 15:41:12 on 26 March 2010
er..... brian, salt is sodium chloride. sodium nitrate is a bit more powerful like, er , BOOM!!!!
Anne Fernie wrote
at 13:41:42 on 26 March 2010
I'm appalled but like Iveren above not in the least bit surprised at the latest developments. The 'Brand' must be safeguarded at all costs! All I can say is please, please do not express your cynicism by staying at home on ballott day (even though it is tempting to do so)........
Eddie. wrote
at 13:01:53 on 26 March 2010
So once again Salford Council try and keep the lid on "The Truth Telling Salford Star". What is wrong with criticism? Do Salford Council believe they are above criticism? If anyone is being political here it is Salford Council. As for their "Life In Salford" mag, i never read it, I send it strait back to Salford Council unread, via the blue recycle bin!
Albert Spiby wrote
at 13:01:46 on 26 March 2010
The Council are already a dictatorship in my view. I'm not surprised they have once again decided to try and silence the voice of the people.
brianfkirkham wrote
at 13:01:33 on 26 March 2010
AHHHHH..... I Do sometimes love the actions of the idle few against the needs of the residents of this city. I am now being taken back in time to that lovely period in time of communist russia - where dear old town chiefs had their fingers in the pies of everything and in turn bent everything to their will as they ran everything. It is a fact that this fair city needs a newspaper to reflect whats going on in its area, in fact, i see it as the people's civic duty. Haven't the executive heard of a free press? or perhaps free speech ? It's whats called DEMOCRACY. Of course, there is a way out, seek alternative sources of funding. I don't feel the community committees are to blame for their decision not to fund the magazine , but when a member of the executive is plastering out dubious advice to the committees it does raise a question - Do the city fathers want a free press? It's time those lovely people came down from their ivory towers and gave back a voice to the people. Or is it a case that Salford is now Owned in its entirity by The private developers, Peel/Westminster Holdings, BBC or Anyone else wishing to buy in to this Utopia of private islands created on Salford's green and pleasant land.? As for their own propaganda, and that of the not so free advertiser . I'll take it with a large pinch of Sodium Nitrate (thats SALT to you and me, only Salford are probably copyrighting that for one of their development groups!) See you later Comrades! :)
debbie wrote
at 09:47:34 on 26 March 2010
What a bunch of snivelling hypocrites, Salford Council were quite happy to employ a solicitor who not only once broke the law but twice for car tax avoidance, yet are saying if funding is given for the Salford Star the will be 'breaking the law' yeah right
Iveren McCallion wrote
at 09:47:23 on 26 March 2010
It's disappointing but not surprising that Salford Council would so actively seek to stifle the wishes, requests and voices of the people it's supposed to serve in order to look good at all costs! The council would do well to focus its efforts and cash on trying to ensure it delivers a stellar service to its constituents by LISTENING to what they have to say! I don't think the matter will stop here - the voice of the people should never be silenced or ignored, if it is shouldn't we just brand the council a dictatorship?
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