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IN WAKE OF GRENFELL TOWER FIRE SALFORD COUNCIL BLOCKED MEDIA RELAYING INFORMATION TO FRIGHTENED SALFORD RESIDENTS
 

Star date: 20th December 2017

SALFORD CITY COUNCIL BLOCKED PENDLETON TOGETHER FROM SPEAKING TO SALFORD STAR

In the immediate aftermath of the Grenfell Tower tragedy, Salford residents living in cladded high rises were frightened and confused. But as the Salford Star tried to get housing companies to reassure them on safety, Pendleton Together, which managed the nine most lethal blocks, would not provide any information.

Now, after a six month Freedom of Information battle with Salford Council over the release of related emails, it can be revealed that Pendleton Together had an "agreement" with the Council "not to respond to the Salford Star". How many 'agreements' does Salford Council have with other companies 'not to respond to the Salford Star'?

Full details here...


Together Housing and Salford Council cladding emails Together Housing and Salford Council cladding emails
click image to enlarge

On the June 14th morning after the Grenfell Tower fire tragedy, frightened residents living in Salford's high rises contacted the Salford Star wanting to know if they were safe, given their blocks had cladding similar to Grenfell... "This is horrifying...I'm really scared now" said one tenant.

As a community media outlet, the Salford Star immediately sought reassurance from the three housing companies in the city that own or manage high rises. While Salix Homes had posted safety advice on social media, and City West had pre-arranged fire safety sessions, Pendleton Together had published nothing and wouldn't respond to Salford Star enquiries.

The Star published the story the same day under the title Salford Tower Block Fears After Tragic London Blaze (click here). Towards the end of June, as the cladding scandal continued, some residents believed that there might have been a cover up over what materials were on the blocks, how they got there and who signed them off as acceptable. They asked the Salford Star to investigate...

On June 28th, the Salford Star submitted a Freedom of Information request asking for "all emails between Councillor Paul Longshaw [the then Lead Member for Housing],  and any staff/director at Pendleton Together/Together Housing from 13th June until today 28th June"...

This request was sent before Paul Longshaw took his own life. Indeed, the Star had spoken to Councillor Longshaw a few days after Grenfell, who had promised full transparency over any inquiry into the cladding.

After a six month battle with Salford Council to get hold of the emails, they were finally released yesterday, and while the 14 official emails sent show no sign of a cover up over the cladding scandal, they do reveal everything about the Council trying to control the flow of information to residents via the Salford Star.

On 14th June itself, Daniel Klemm, Head of Policy and Communications at the Together Housing Group, of which Pendleton Together is a part, writes to Paul Longshaw with an update on what has been done to inform tenants...

"As per our agreement with the Council we did not respond to the Salford Star" he writes, giving a link to the Star story and adding, "We'll keep an eye on if this is picked up by wider media such as the Manchester Evening News..."

On 18th June, there is a further email sent from Klemm to Paul Longshaw, copied to various other Council and Pendleton Together officers, with a link to a further article on the Salford Star, stating "In light of the situation, and following discussions with Tim Miskell and Paul Longshaw, we decided to move away from our long standing approach of not responding to the Salford Star...

"To be fair, on this occasion the story is fairly balanced..." he adds, with absolutely no understanding, it seems, that articles cannot be properly 'fairly balanced' if organisations do not respond to journalists' enquiries.

The Salford Star has been aware for years that Salford Council has been pressuring organisations, that should be accountable to the public, from responding to legitimate questions. This is the first time, however, that it is in black and white that there was an "agreement with the Council we did not respond to the Salford Star", as Together Housing put it.

Greater Manchester Police no longer sends the Salford Star press releases; Greater Manchester Mayor, Andy Burnham, has also knocked the Star off his press list since we did an innocuous interview with him over his Digital Strategy; City West Housing do not respond to press enquiries; and Salix Homes picks and chooses what the company responds to.

Meanwhile, our last request to interview Salford and Eccles MP Rebecca Long-Bailey didn't even merit a reply, despite the Star being the only long standing press left based in Salford. Yet the week before Long-Bailey was elected as an MP in May 2015 she told the Salford Star...

"Yeah I think it's sad that people aren't talking to you because, irrespective of the kind of coverage these people are going to get, at the end of the day it's important for local politicians to be held to account whether it's good publicity or bad publicity.

"If it's off the scale and it's mad then fair enough but I've read what you've got and I don't think it's like that...From a personal and moral perspective in dealing with the press it's just to make sure that it's fair" she added "If you are going to run something that's negative then at least give me the chance to put a comment in..."

...The list of organisations and politicians who won't speak to the Star goes on and on, led by Salford City Council which hasn't responded in over five years – despite Salford City Mayor, Paul Dennett, promising greater transparency when he was elected.

Meanwhile, the cladding scandal continues, with Salford Council still blocking a further Freedom of Information request from the Star concerning Building Control documents relating to the Pendleton high rises...and residents still living in fear, with their blocks still engulfed by the dangerous ACM materials...

wrote
at 08:30:02 on 29 December 2017
Sad to hear about the Bronx fire. Why is the new Councillor in Langworthy not in news calling for action on Langworthy flats.
 
wrote
at 18:55:22 on 24 December 2017
Is it possible to find out where the directive came from, or who, not to talk to the Salford Star, for years? You have to ask why they won't talk to you. If you were publishing lies, then they would sue you, therefore you must be publishing the truth.
 
Bob wrote
at 05:52:44 on 24 December 2017
The chances of a Grenfel type fire happening again are very slim, but that is no consolation to the people who are worried about this possible chance that it might happen. All chances MUST be minimized. Contrast what has happened with what happened when Concorde crashed. Tyres had burst before many times. Burst tyres had gone through the wing before a few times, but it took an accident like what happened to make people take notice. Then what did they do? ground the lot till it was all sorted. Again one remedy for the rich , one for the poor. In my opinion ,Grenfel, no matter what,was inherently unsafe,for the simple reason, like many other London blocks, it had only one fire escape. As far as I know all ours "up north"have two. This cladding and insulation has to go. you cannot gamble with public safety, and if you do, and loose, then not only do you loose life, but you loose money as well as Kensington are finding out now. It is costing £300million to re house the people in that borough, all of Kensingtons reserves. That is without damages.About £2.5million per dwelling. No doubt the rich tory council there would like to ship these poor people out, but they can't, it would look very bad. Think of the stick some of the tory councilors will get from their snooty electorate when they start buying up flats in posh neighbourhoods to house these council tenants. They should have done things right in the first place, and so should ours up here ,you cannot mess with peoples lives.
 
Gareth L wrote
at 11:25:55 on 21 December 2017
Keep up the good work Stephen. Maybe you should have a new counter on the site FOI requests ignored.
 
white wrote
at 11:25:52 on 21 December 2017
If all Star readers wrote to their respective councillors asking why the council refused to have any dealings with the Star; would they a) explain b) not reply
 
Michael James Felse wrote
at 11:25:19 on 21 December 2017
Thank you Punk. As a reasonable citizen I am willing to give Salford Council five words this Christmas. Openness, Trust, Respect, Transparency, Communications. Use them well.
 
bob wrote
at 19:50:22 on 20 December 2017
You've all hit the nail with this one, but punk hit it the best. Just about sums it all up.
 
wrote
at 19:50:09 on 20 December 2017
Langworthy what just voted Labour what do ya think now. You still think this local Labour lot is fit to rule over you. Come tell us what did they promise on ya door step. Don't hold your breath.
 
Bob wrote
at 18:04:54 on 20 December 2017
For once , I agree with someone from one of the local housing groups. Daniel Klemm is indeed right when he states that the Stars reporting was "fairly balanced". It was, and that is what was wrong with it. It should not have been for the simple reason that the housing groups and Salford Council were, and still are, not playing with a straight bat. If they don't play with a straight bat, they should be hit with all the bodyline bouncers that can be bowled against them. When they complain, which they will, well it's their fault. If it's true, print it. you have to be hard with these bullies, it is all they understand. The readers like it as well.The tougher the better. Go get em.
 
punk wrote
at 18:04:48 on 20 December 2017
It's like I said ages ago in a comment that for some reason the Star didn't show. Salford City Council is a modern version of the type of local government that existed in a Southern state such as Louisiana during the reign of Huey The Kingfish Long. And sadly; things will never change. It's been like this for so long that it's now in the dna of the city. It's always gonna be this way, nothing will ever change. Not even with Old Felsey doing his glorious but doomed political Charge of the Light Brigade. As an old French General watching Felse's epic charge down the valley would undoubtedly say "C'este Magnifique. But it eez not politics, Mon Ami. Non! Non, it eez not politcs." What I'm trying to say, is that Salford is Fu***d. Sadly, the people get the politicians and the government that they deserve. Rather than the people who will make a difference ( Michael James Felse) We get the dross. Apathy reigns supreme. I predict that Salford will one day go bust. It'll be a northern English version of somewhere like Detroit. And it will be all our apathetic selves fault for allowing the mugs who are in charge the ability to be in charge because, in truth, those same said useless Labour councillor mugs with all of their ineptness and lack of any savvy, mirror us, the apathetic electorate.
 
Alice wrote
at 18:03:57 on 20 December 2017
It is so suspicious when a public representative body refuses to release information needed by the public. Surely that is what transparency means. The Salford Star may upset some people who would rather keep information secret, but it is the responsibility of this community newspaper to expose truth. If a report turns out to be untrue then it can be challenged and corrected. That is mature and responsible discussion. If the Council continues to be silent to queries from the Star then how are the public to get to know what is happening. It is the very opposite to democracy.
 
Tony Ormonde wrote
at 18:02:38 on 20 December 2017
Wholeheartedly agree with Joe O'Neill, put bluntly, Labour in Salford is no longer a party that can be approached for help by anyone that is not rich. Time Momentum' cleared out as many councillors as they think they can, BUT,lets not forget RLBailey. Just as much a waste of time contacting her for answers about anything
 
Keith wrote
at 18:02:32 on 20 December 2017
It amazes me how this council (a) gets away with it time and again. (b) A labour council that gets blindly votes in every single time. Why are any of you surprised that this is their attitude to arts anything or one that wants them to be accountable? Sadly the best thing I ever did was to leave Salford, sad to see the state of it now
 
simon TAYLOR wrote
at 13:08:01 on 20 December 2017
bit late this vid 'How safe is my Tower block?' shows what tenants should look for. Enjoy. Simon. www.youtube.com/watch?v=DTRH6XnIjg8
 
joe O'Neill wrote
at 13:07:58 on 20 December 2017
What a shocking story Labour again showing they would rather control the flow of media than release it to the general public, which begs the question what other little secrets are they hiding, they fear Kingston. in reality the only opposition voice left in Salford.
 
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