It could be your JOB next, we must fight this Liberal/Tory butchers Budget.Salfords Labour council need little excuse to get rid of staff, so help to fight against it.
SALFORD STAR FUNDING APPEAL
Star date: 24th June 2010
Salford Council Officers Subjectively Advised Community Committees To Reject Salford Star Funding Application…
“We’ve not been provided with the written evidence of examples of political bias” John Merry, Leader Salford city Council
Salford Council officers subjectively decided that the Salford Star shouldn’t be funded, according to statements made at the Council’s Cabinet meeting this week.
Salford Star was appealing against the Council’s decision to advise three of the city’s community committees not to fund the magazine from devolved monies as the publication was ‘overtly political’ and ‘not balanced’. No proper definition of the term ‘overtly political’ was produced by officers, and neither was there any evidence presented of ‘unbalanced’ articles.
The Cabinet decided to defer the appeal to await some evidence.
Full story and highlights of the meeting here…
<a title="HANDS OFF HOPE IN LIFE MAGAZINE
Salford Council’s Hands Off Hope Hospital `political’ campaign in the Council’s LIFE magazine” href=”http://www.salfordstar.com/images/l/Life%20In%20Salford%20Hope%20Hospital%202056.jpg” rel=lightbox[example] alt=”Click to view HANDS OFF HOPE IN LIFE MAGAZINE”> <a title="HANDS OFF HOPE IN LIFE MAGAZINE
Salford Council clearly supporting the campaign to save the maternity unit in Hope Hospital – and a great campaign it was too, fully supported by the Salford Star. ” href=”http://www.salfordstar.com/images/l/Life%20In%20Salford%20Hope%20Hospital055.jpg” rel=lightbox[example] alt=”Click to view HANDS OFF HOPE IN LIFE MAGAZINE”>
click image to enlarge
SALFORD COUNCIL ON TRIAL
LYING RABBIS? AXES TO GRIND? INEPT OFFICERS? BIAS? HAZEL BLEARS AND IRAQ?
In an hour long hearing on Tuesday, Salford Council’s Cabinet members decided to defer the decision on the Salford Star’s appeal against the rejection of its funding applications.
Officers of the Council had written reports stating that the Salford Star did not meet the Council’s criteria for funding publications because it was `overtly political’ and `not balanced’.
“We’ve not been provided with the written evidence of examples of political bias” said Council Leader, John Merry “What I want to do is to defer the decision until I’ve got written evidence of whether it meets the criteria or not. I don’t think that on the basis of the evidence I’ve got before me that I can make a decision. I’ve not got the evidence in front of me one way or the other…”
Salford Council devolves £3.06 per head of population back to eight community committees around the city, which can decide how to spend the funding. Money is given to all sorts of good community projects, from local football teams to dance groups. However, in 2007, when the Salford Star applied to these committees for funding, the constitution for devolved funding was re-written just for `publications’ which had to meet new criteria.
The Council decided then that the Star didn’t meet the criteria and the funding application was ripped up. In March this year the Salford Star applied again to three of the community committees – Ordsall and Langworthy, East Salford and Claremont and Weaste.
The report by Council officers to these committees stated that, while none of the Salford Star’s content breached the libel laws, the Salford Star is “overtly political in nature” and “cannot be seen to take a balanced approach”.
Salford Star’s case for appealing was that there was never any definition of `overtly political’ provided, and that the method of rejecting the magazine’s funding application was based on subjective views of Council officers, particularly as the Executive Summary of the report recommending that the magazine should be “not supported” stated that the Salford Star “tends to criticise authority, in particular singling out Salford City Council and individual councillors for criticism”.
The Salford Star’s opening statement:
“We’re not political, we do take a balanced approach and we regard the whole process by which the community committees were swayed into refusing our application was biased, incorrect and disgusting… Salford councillors don’t want to hear criticism, don’t want to hear the community’s voices and don’t want to see independent objective journalism…”
Under questioning, Sue Lightup, The Council’s Strategic Director for Community Health and Social Care, said that “it was just across the publication that some articles were of a political nature and there wasn’t a balance” although she admitted that “there were no specific examples”.
The Salford Star asked Sue Lightup for a definition of `overtly political’… “It’s a judgement” she said “We are obviously making judgements about sets of criteria…We have to use the experience and knowledge and understanding we have, and what case law might exist, to make those judgements that we come to – so we use the expertise that we’ve developed over a period of time basically”
Salford Star: So defining it is subjective?
Barbara Spicer, Salford Council’s Chief Executive, said the Local Government Act explains that `political’ is supporting any political party or candidate – but the Council couldn’t give any examples of the Salford Star supporting any political party or candidate.
In response to officers’ assertions in their report that the Star had supported the Hazel Must Go! campaign, editor Stephen Kingston said “Given that half the people in this room were slagging her off at a private meeting at the Town Hall, I think it is fair to say that (our backing of the campaign) was representative of people in Salford at that time. After an election was called we did not support that campaign – we continued to expose Hazel’s misendeavours but did not support any political candidate – we did not tell anyone not to vote for Hazel or to vote for the Hazel Must Go! candidate.”
Indeed, Salford Council had supported a so-called `overtly political’ campaign in its own Life magazine, when it campaigned to keep the maternity unit at Hope Hospital open. No matter how just the cause was – and the Salford Star certainly supported that campaign - what was the difference between the campaign to save Hope maternity unit and the Hazel Must Go! campaign, or the campaign to save St George’s School which in the end was supported by the independent schools adjudicator?
John Merry stated that `overtly political’ wasn’t just defined as party political it was also “campaigning in a partisan manner”.
Salford Star: So the Council campaigning in a partisan manner in Life for Hope Hospital maternity unit was ok was it?
The only other example cited in the original officers’ report which led to their conclusion that “There can be little doubt that the Salford Star prints articles that are of an overtly political nature” was an article on Planning Lead Member Councillor Derek Antrobus concerning a possible U-turn on industrial development in the Green Belt.
Councillor Antrobus argued that the he was never asked for his views on the article which the officers had argued “infers that comments attributed to Councillor Derek Antrobus were made with the forthcoming election in mind”.
Responding, Stephen Kingston said that the magazine had quoted him verbatim in the report and questioned his comments, made in an overtly political press release, released on Labour Party letterhead, shortly before the local election.
It was right to question its integrity, rather than print it as fact, as all the local press had done. Indeed, after last week’s planning meeting, when Councillor Antrobus did indeed vote for industrial development (mining) on the Green Belt the Salford Star article seemed to be borne out (see here and here). “The two cases sited in the officers’ report just don’t stand up.”
The appeal continued with Salford Star arguing that the case against it was not only flawed but biased. Stephen Kingston argued that Salford Online, which applied for community committee funding at the same time as Salford Star, never had reports from officers attached to its application saying it hadn’t met the criteria… “It stinks of hypocrisy”.
Responding, Sue Lightup said that “It was subjected to the same criteria”, while another officer stated that Salford Online had actually “passed” the criteria.
“Passed it?” said Stephen Kingston “Though they do uncritical interviews with the BNP, give open access to political candidates? I would argue that the reason they weren’t subjected to the criteria is that they cut and paste Salford Council press releases without any independent objective journalism.”
The Salford Star quoted further examples of inept judgements by officers.
• An e-mail “expressing the view” that the Star “should not be supported” – obtained by Salford Star, and sent by Brian Wroe, the former Council Strategic Director for Community Health and Social Care - stated that the Star’s application was deferred “to await the outcome of deliberation by Lead Member and thereafter the Leader”
As well as the officers view, this seemed to show that “John Merry was the judge of whether we met the criteria and whether we got funded or not” said Stephen Kingston.
Responding, Sue Lightfoot said that “At the time that’s what we understood was the process. We haven’t used this process since 2007…It’s been a little while and not many people had experience of using the criteria, so at the point at which the assessment was made, the understanding was that the decision needed to be made by the Lead Member and Leader – I don’t know where that came from. In fact that didn’t happen. I accept that’s what it says in the e-mail but following that the recommendation was determined by myself and senior officers, not the Leader.”
• The Salford Star had explained in both its original application and in a further letter that its online version was a very different animal from its printed magazine because people choose to look at it rather than have it pushed through their door with no choice. As the application was for funding towards the printed magazine, the company had specifically requested that officers and the community committees only refer to the printed magazine in their assessment of the application’s merits. Yet officers had only looked at the online content, despite three magazines being included with the application.
Responding, Sue Lightfoot said “I entirely accept the point that with an online publication it is up to people to choose whether they have a look at it or not . But we can only judge the criteria against what we can see…. so we used the criteria against what we saw and that was the advice that we came back with.”
• The Ordsall and Langworthy Community Committee rejected the Salford Star’s application on the grounds that it was a “commercial venture”…
“This is how badly informed the Community Committees were” said Stephen Kingston “If the Salford Star is anything it is not a commercial venture. How the hell anyone can believe that it’s a commercial venture I don’t understand…it’s obviously based on incredibly bad advice from officers”
Responding, Sue Lightup said “They are entirely able to make their own minds up about how they respond to the Salford Star, so one of the Community Committees chose to respond to the effect that it’s a commercial organisation. We did not put those words into the Community Committee’s mouths, it’s the way they have decided to respond.”
• A Community Committee Budget Sub Group member stood up at the East Salford Community Committee meeting and said that, following advice from officers, members had no choice but to reject the Salford Star application – otherwise they would be “breaking the law”.
“They had two hands tied behind their backs” said Stephen Kingston “I would accept it if those committees said `We don’t want to fund the Star’ but when people are told you might go to jail if you fund the Salford Star, that’s something completely different.”
Responding, Sue Lightup said “I don’t think that’s an entirely accurate representation of the discussion in East Salford but I wasn’t there and you weren’t there…”
QUESTIONS FROM THE CABINET
John Merry: The whole question was around this issue of balance and I think this is something that we disagree on. You think that the fact that you supported the Hazel Must Go campaign before the election absolves you of all accusations of political bias when that campaign was a very clear political campaign, not so much around her expenses, as the candidate said, but around whether our troops should be brought back from Iraq and some of the other issues involved. Is that right?
John Merry: I want to ask another question around the issue of devolved money. You feel that this money is not the Council’s. Are you aware of what the legal situation is around this money?
Councillor Peter Connor: You say you have a balance and that overt political comments were not meant to be overtly political…Are you saying that the Salford Star is not political?
SUMMING UP – Edited Highlights
Sue Lightup – for Salford Council
“It’s important members that this isn’t an issue of whether as officers we’re advising the Community Committees that we like the Star or not, it is absolutely nothing to do with that. It’s to do with whether we believe the Salford Star in its application meets the criteria which was set out and which allows the council to fulfil its obligations under the Local Government Act, it’s as simple as that.
“And in the assessment we undertook we did believe…we could not recommend to the Community Committee budget group that the Salford Star met the criteria. I totally accept that there is a judgement in that, and the Salford Star might totally disagree with that but that is the advice that we felt was appropriate as officers of this council to the Community Committees.
“We didn’t feel that the Star met the criteria and we didn’t feel that the Council couldn’t truly undertake its obligation and responsibilities under the Local Government Act. So I think what we are attempting to do is take a transparent clear approach around publications. It does get more difficult as time goes on because publications can appear in many, many different ways and I entirely accept the point Stephen’s made about an online publication is up to people to choose whether they have a look at it or not .
“But we can only judge the criteria against what we can see, so I appreciate that the comments were made at the point that if the publication came out in black and white it would take a different approach. But we couldn’t judge on that, we could only judge on what we saw and so we used the criteria against what we saw and that was the advice that we came back with.”
Stephen Kingston – for the Salford Star
“We did actually put printed copies of the mag in with the application to judge us on, so to say you then went online to judge us is a nonsense really. If you look at the last issue you will find nothing overtly political, nothing unbalanced, we actually gave way too much space to certain people in it.
“We do not expect to get this decision overturned because we believe that the whole process has been biased from the start, evidenced by the report sent out from Salford Council stating that the Salford Star “tends to criticise authority, in particular singling out Salford City Council and individual councillors for criticism”.
“The fact is that Salford Council doesn’t like the Salford Star, doesn’t like our investigative journalism which takes hours and hours and hours to dig up… we don’t print Salford Council press releases verbatim, we independently assess everything that goes out from the Council and NHS and others…
“I still haven’t heard a reasonable definition of what is overtly political, I still haven’t heard a reasonable definition of the fact that we don’t take a balanced approach, and I would argue that Salford Council is making a subjective judgement on whether the Salford Star should be funded from the community or not.
“We’d be breaking the law if we funded the Salford Star” is one comment from a rabbi, while another person came up to me the day after the meeting and said `You’ve been stitched up’. That’s what I believe this Council and this Cabinet is doing to us.”
Concluding the appeal John Merry said “I find myself in some difficulty, not whether or not I like the Salford Star and the issue is not whether we want it to exist or not. The fact remains that there are loads of publications which are perfectly entitled to attack councils, but they wouldn’t seek funding from the organisations they are attacking…”
SK: “Let’s get this right, we are not attacking Salford Council, we’re exposing figures and telling people what is actually going on, it’s different. There is no axe to grind…”
JM: “OK. Regardless of whether I think you’ve got an axe to grind, and I think your readers are supporting you because they think you’ve got an axe to grind, but that is irrelevant.
“The point is that I’m not satisfied yet, and we’ve not been provided with the written evidence of examples of political bias. What I want to do is to defer the decision until I’ve got written evidence of whether it meets the criteria or not. I don’t think that on the basis of the evidence I’ve got before me I can make a decision. I’ve not got the evidence in front of me one way or the other. So I’m going to suggest that we defer this until the next Cabinet meeting.”
The next Cabinet meeting is in July. Watch this space…
Comment from me,Mr Kingston is good at is job,he is not political,i honestly wished he was then people like me would have a field day.
“The Prime Minister David Cameron and his deputy Nick Clegg have written to all six million public sector workers, asking how to make “fair and responsible” spending cuts. But union leaders reacted with anger, saying they could barely believe that hard-working public sector workers were being asked to get involved in how to axe services.” – Daily Telegraph
Harriet Harman’s response to the Budget was remarkable for the ferocity with which she went for the Liberal Democrats. The plain text does not capture the anger and loathing she demonstrated for the junior partners in the Coalition but here it is:
“This reckless Tory Budget would not be possible without the Lib Dems.
The Lib Dems denounced early cuts; now they are backing them.
They denounced VAT increases; now they are voting for them.
How could they support everything they fought against?
How could they let down everyone who voted for them?
How could they let the Tories so exploit them?
Do they not see that they are just a fig leaf?
The Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary is just the Chancellor’s fig leaf.
The Deputy Prime Minister is just the Prime Minister’s fig leaf.
The Lib Dems’ leaders have sacrificed everything they ever stood for to ride in ministerial cars and to ride on the coat tails of the Tory Government.
Twenty-two Liberal Democrat ministerial jobs have been bought at the cost of tens of thousands of other people’s.
The Liberal Democrats used to stand up for people’s jobs, but now they only stand up for their own.
Look at the Business Secretary, the right hon. Member for Twickenham (Vince Cable).
The House has noticed his remarkable transformation in the past few weeks from national treasure to Treasury poodle.
They have no mandate for this Budget; this Budget has no legitimacy.
Even if the Lib Dems will not speak up for jobs, we will.
Even if they will not fight for fairness, we will, and even if they will not protest against Tory broken promises, we will.”
There is no sign – yet – in the polls that the Liberal Democrats are suffering for being part of the Coalition but I expect Labour’s number one aim – once a leader is chosen – to significantly erode Liberal Democrat support in Scotland, Wales (where there are elections next year) and in northern cities.
If the LibDems start retreating badly in left leaning parts of the country I expect Clegg/Hughes/Cable will look for an early opportunity to break free. Once, of course, they have electoral reform in the bag.
“There is much in the Chancellor George Osborne’s Budget to be worried about, and I am most concerned about the impact the cuts will have on people in Salford. The Government is risking the recovery by making cuts both too deep and too early. I am worried that my constituents in Worsley and Eccles South will have to pay the price of this decision.
“Young people and families are set to suffer the most, with child benefits frozen for three years, the scrapping of the Health in Pregnancy grant for new mothers and cuts to the Sure Start maternity grant and worst of all the increase in VAT to 20%. Before the Budget, the Government had scrapped the Child Trust Fund, ended free swimming for children and older people and cut the free school meals programme.
“The Government’s decision to scrap Labour’s Future Jobs Fund will axe hundreds of jobs for young people in Salford and they have also scrapped the Young Person’s Guarantee of a job or training place. There will be savage cuts to the funding in the public sector but while we do not have growth in the private sector this will just lead to unemployment for many.
“There was a choice today. The Government could have protected people from losing their jobs and gone for growth, as Labour would have done. This Tory Budget fails the fairness test and hits the poorest and most vulnerable people most.
“This is the same old Tories, but now they are being propped up by a Liberal Democrat party betraying their values and failing the people who voted for them at the last election.”
Natural wastage? 400 hard to find these days. with the high levels of savings all ready factored in i can’t see it. Funny who the hell will fight for the workers? I could see it and now it’s arrived. Well Merry Christmas to one and all. Compliments of the Tories and their Liberal Democrat partners.
Is the Conservative/Lib Dem coalition unravelling? Are those pesky LibDems getting flaky about the Budget, spending cuts and the VAT increase?
First, within hours of George Osborne’s Budget, LibDem MP Bob Russell threatened to vote against it. Now another, Mike Hancock, says he might not vote for it.
So, up stepped new deputy leader Simon Hughes in the Commons to set the record straight. Or straight-ish. (Well, they are the LibDems.)
Simon, dubbed the keeper of the party’s conscience, rose to his feet on day three of the Budget debate after taunts from Labour MPs challenging LibDem MPs to vote against the Budget in the Commons vote next Monday.
“When it comes to the Budget next week we will vote for the Budget,” said Simon.
Oh well. That’s pretty clear, isn’t it?
Er, no. Not quite, because he then went on to say:
“But if there are measures in the Finance Bill where we can improve fairness and make for a fairer Britain, then we will come forward with amendments to do that, because that’s we make the difference.
“As we will in the spending review which will follow in the months ahead.”
Fudge? Cop-out? Typical LibDems, sitting on the fence?
Yes, it looks like all three of those.
Earlier in his speech, Hughes said there would be “trouble” if there was any “unpicking” of the coalition deal. The whole thing would risk “falling apart”, he said, though there was no suggestion of that from the Government.
So, the Liberal Democrats’ voting position – a yes to the Budget but a maybe to the Finance Bill – is not just a fudge but also a warning shot to the Tories.
What might the Conservatives want to unpick? Hughes mentioned the winter fuel allowances, free bus travel and free TV licences for the elderly.
George Osborne, you have been warned.