At the Salford Poverty Truth Commission last week*, Salford City Mayor, Paul Dennett, was in the audience as people in the community told their stories of poverty, including poor housing and homelessness. As the city booms with development this was the other side of the story, with a collage at the back of the hall spelling it all out graphically...
...`Lack of community venues'... `selling of green space'...`social cleansing'... `not enough beds'...`poor living conditions'... `misuse of monies'...
In his speech, the City Mayor at least acknowledged the problem, probably the first time a prominent politician in the city has done so. While former Mayor, Ian Stewart, waffled on about `Chinese levels of growth', new Mayor, Paul Dennett, was more circumspect...
"We all see growth as some sort of panacea" he explained "What is interesting is local authorities talking about this idea of `inclusive growth' but what we really need to understand is what is going on here. What we're seeing in the city of Salford is that poverty and deprivation isn't shifting. However we are experiencing significant growth. So what is happening here?
"Global financial investors are coming into our city investing in building after building, which is great, fantastic, but there's a real challenge for me, as City Mayor" he added "It's up to us and our respective organisations to design a system that actually tackles poverty and also provides people with real opportunities through growth."
The confession that massive bricks and mortar development of unaffordable properties isn't reducing poverty and deprivation is timely, and something that the Salford Star has been screaming about for a decade.
Firstly, bulldozing people's homes in Langworthy, Seedley, Broughton and Charlestown as part of the failed Pathfinder and NDC projects did nothing but break up communities, produce unaffordable housing and provide no jobs, as developers, consultants and demolition companies cashed in.
This current second wave of uber development around the Salford side of the Manchester border has similarly provided no gains for Salford's poorest communities – and in the process has given the city away to the rich as a cheap Monopoly board.
In print issue 10 of the Salford Star magazine, it was documented in ridiculous detail how developers had evaded and avoided £19,275,553 in planning payments and obligations to the city, which also lost 830 affordable houses in the process (click here for electronic version). That figure, based on Salford Council reports and figures, was the total up to March 2015.
Developers got out of the payments by producing `viability' reports showing that if they had to pay up, their schemes wouldn't be economically viable to build. But these `viability' reports, the Salford Star showed, included developers' profits in the costs that they were allowed to deduct – up to £24million. The viability reports are completely secret and no-one from the community or press can see them.
Salford Council also helped developers by declaring certain areas `low' or `mid value' where no fees at all had to be paid. This new policy was brought in last summer without any publicised consultation with the community, only `stakeholders' (see here)
Since March 2015 and up until June 2016**, using the same estimations, developers have avoided and evaded a further £23,273,225 in planning fees and obligations, making a staggering total of £42,548,778 lost to the city over just two years...
...And this doesn't include payments from the whole of the development of Chapel Street and New Bailey, which are kept completely secret by the Council and English Cities Fund (ECf) (see here). The Salford Star is currently challenging this secrecy via the Information Commissioner.
The Council would argue that it has `clawback' arrangements in place for the rest of Salford, so that, should developers make bigger profits than originally declared, they will pay something back to the city – but there's no sign of that as yet, despite many developers declaring that the first phases of their schemes have already sold out.
Meanwhile, despite the Council bringing in a `kiddie bedroom tax' for developers, who were supposed to pay for extra school places if they built family housing, it was revealed in February that just £17,000 had been collected for this purpose (see here).
£42million, while it can only be used on `capital' projects and not frontline services, still buys a lot of school expansion, community resource centres, homeless shelters, recreation grounds and more. The very things that help alleviate poverty and deprivation. Instead, a lot of so-called section 106 money that's been collected is usually earmarked for posh riverside walkways and bridges.
The Salford Mayor asked `What is going on here?'. A clue was given by Salford's own Planning Lead Member, Councillor Derek Antrobus, in a recent short film about regeneration...
"The Quays started to change the image of Salford so people were no longer concerned about investing in the city" he explained, before adding "I hope that the image of the city will be much better" and "We've got Media City which has been of immense value in changing the image of Salford from Dirty Old Town to something more about the future..." (see here)
While Antrobus revealed an image-obsessed Salford Council, people in the film talked about loss of community and heritage. Community activist and youth worker, Graham Cooper, summed up the attitude towards regeneration... "It's about bricks and mortar and not about the people who live in these areas" he said.
It's a bit of poverty truth that the Salford Mayor could well take on board. Meanwhile, developers are laughing all the way to the bank – with over £42million in their back pockets...
See also previous related Salford Star articles...
*Report on the Salford Poverty Truth Commission – click here
Salford Deprivation Revealed in AGMA report - click here
New Salford Deprivation Figures Show Regeneration Failure - click here
Salford Housing Report Shows Working Class Being Priced Out of Regeneration Area - click here
Salford Developers Avoid £6million at Just One Planning Meeting - click here
** Developers avoiding payments have been documented constantly by the Salford Star - click on the archive page for a month by month report