A statement from the Central Salford Urban Regeneration Company (URC) on Wednesday read that "The URC Board has reluctantly begun the process of winding up the company following the loss of two of its three major public sector funders".
The URC chairman, Felicity Goodey, added: "We set out with an ambitious vision and thanks to the strength of the partnership we have with Salford and its people we have delivered far more than ever promised."
The "promise" was to create a "beautiful, vibrant prosperous city". Felicity obviously hasn't looked around Salford recently…
Up until 2009, there had already been over £54million of public sector funding channelled into making Central Salford a "Beautiful, vibrant, prosperous city", with another £173.6million due by 2012.
Take a look around the Central Salford areas which the URC was supposed to make `beautiful, vibrant and prosperous' and draw your own conclusions.
• Chapel Street – boarded up, derelict, an embarrassment to Salford.
• Islington Estate – still waiting for work just to bring homes up to the decent housing standard.
• Pendleton – a complete and utter shambles as the PFI scheme to improve the area gets delayed and delayed. Even the new Tesco store has proved to be a centre of controversy.
• Ordsall – an obsession with `yuppiefying' the outer area near the `Waterfront', while the community remains one of the most deprived in the country.
• MediaCityUK – the URC began the myth that there would be 15,000 jobs, exposed by the Salford Star (see here).
• Investment – the URC forecast £170million private investment for Central Salford for the year 2009-10. This was quickly scaled back to £3million (see here)
In Central Salford URC's annual report for 2008/9 (new one isn't available) it stated that "The Company's approach to Community Regeneration is breaking new ground". It talks about "transforming public services", "tackling deprivation" and "empowering local communities". Yet most people in Salford have never even heard of the Central Salford URC - even though it spent almost £93,000 on public relations and marketing in the year to March 2009.
The URC is a private not-for-profit company, with a board of directors including Salford Council Leader, John Merry; Salford Council Chief Exec Barbara Spicer; University of Salford Vice Chancellor Martin Hall and Felicity Goodey as Chairman. The full board of directors claimed £7,480 in the year to March 2009, and there were also `Board emoluments' of £24,000 (whatever that means).
Housed in the plush Digital World Centre opposite The Lowry on Salford Quays, its offices were costing almost £240,000 a year in 2008, and in the year until March 2009 staff costs were running at £754,930. It's been reported that the URC has 20 staff which works out at an average of £37,746 each per year. When the Salford Star asked, in 2008, how many URC staff actually lived in Salford, the answer was "Nil".
Over the three years for which we have figures, the URC has spent £230,764 on consultants and well over £200,000 on PR and marketing.
The URC's running costs in the year until March 2009 were £1,233,692 which was paid for by Salford City Council, the Homes and Communities Agency and North West Development Agency (NWDA).
In the year 2008-9 Salford Council contributed £308,000 towards the URC's running costs, with the money coming, strangely from its Neighbourhood Renewal Fund budget, which was set up to "tackle deprivation" in the most deprived areas of Britain.
Since 2009, we have absolutely no idea from which budget Salford Council has been paying the URC as its business plans are deemed confidential. No accounts for the URC have been produced since March 2009, and no annual report has been published since the year 2008-9.
In July this year, the NWDA pulled its `operational' funding for the URC from March next year. A statement at the time explained that "Our programme and projects remain fully funded for the next 18 months… Our operational funding will be considered as part of the Company's usual business planning process in Autumn. This requires consultation with all our Founder Members. This will include funding beyond the current year. For these reasons we cannot presently provide any further information."
Now it has become clear that with `founder members' NWDA and the HCA pulling the funding, the URC can no longer remain in operation. Salford Council remains the sole funder but a statement from Council Leader, John Merry, argues that "we are determined not to lose the momentum built up by the URC. Working with others we will find a way to build on that success and we have every confidence that the development community will support the City Council in this task".
If the URC's projects remain "fully funded for the next 18 months" it will mean that a total of almost £228million of public money will have been poured into Central Salford by 2012. So far, we think it's fair to say that most Salford people are totally unimpressed.
When the Salford Star interviewed Central Salford URC Chief Executive, Chris Farrow, in 2008 we asked him whether all the plans for Central Salford were going to work and be a massive success. He ummmed and erred before saying "I'm ambitious, I'm not heroic…If I didn't think it was within the realms of the possible I wouldn't ask anyone to waste their time."
The plans might still be "in the realms of the possible". Only now, from March, those plans will limp forward without the hype of the URC, whose website states that "Central Salford is on the brink of greatness"
For the full four page URC feature from Autumn 2008 see issue 8 by clicking here for the full PDF.
* The URC statement this week explains that "Since creating the Vision of a Beautiful, Vibrant and Prosperous Salford in 2005, Central Salford URC with its partners in the Council, local people and large numbers of private developers, has delivered more than a billion pounds of development. For every £1 of public money it has secured more than £10 of private investment."