Back in March, Salford City Mayor Paul Dennett and two Council officers - Chief Executive Jim Taylor and Head of Development, Shelagh McNerney ? travelled to the MIPIM property orgy in Cannes, famous for yachts, parties and flowing champagne, to launch the Crescent Masterplan, mingling with developers like Tom Bloxham and Gary Neville.*
A Salford Star Freedom of Information request to Salford City Council revealed that the cost of the trip was ?4,022, paid for by "private sector contributions".** A further Freedom of Information request was submitted, asking which 'private sector' companies or individuals were involved in the payments but this was refused.
The Star asked for an internal inquiry into the decision on 19th June and now, over two months later, the Council solicitor, Miranda Carruthers-Watt, has responded, standing by the original decision not to reveal the names...as there would be a "Clear harm...to the city's economic interests", and it's in the "public interest" to keep it secret...
"In terms of the public interest test, there is a clear public interest in transparency in regard to the receipt of monies from external organisations and how this money is spent" the solicitor states "However, in this instance we have concluded that transparency has been achieved through the publication of the total amount received in external contributions and that the public interest in being able to seek and secure external contributions in order to be able to participate in such activities outweighs arguments favouring disclosure due to the impacts described above."
This is absolute bollocks. The fact that anonymous private companies/individuals pay for the Mayor and staff to go to the South of France is loaded with potential conflicts of interest.
"Disclosure of details of the external contributions received could discourage organisations from making such contributions in future" the solicitor adds "This would likely limit the extent of the council's participation in the event in future and impact on our attempts to attract investment to the city. This would be directly contrary to the council's commercial interests and the wider social and economic interests of Salford. On this basis, it is my view that a clear harm to the council's commercial interests and the city's economic interests can be demonstrated and, for this reason, I am in agreement that the exemption at section 43(2) applies in this case."
Again, this is absolute bollocks. What the solicitor is implying is that private companies/individuals who hand secret money to the Council and Mayor should be protected. The implications of this are shocking and staggering.
While this South of France payment was for only ?4,000, does the same apply if a private company, perhaps one that is looking to controversially develop land, handed the Mayor and Council ?1million via the back door?
The Salford Star has today written to the Information Commissioner (yet again!) asking for a further judgement on the scandalous decision.
For a full background see previous Salford Star articles...
* Salford City Mayor Off To Huge Property Bash In The South of France ? click here
** Salford Council Blocks Freedom of Information Request on ?4,000 MIPIM Trip ? click here
Salford Council Spends ?5,750 on MIPIM PR in South of France ? click here
Salford Council Launches Crescent Masterplan 'Soul Not For Sale' Video ? With American Narrator - click here
Salford Masterplanners Confirm Demolition of Old Crescent Police HQ - click here
Secrecy Reigns at Salford Council Over Regeneration ? click here
Salford Council Banner Declares 'Transparency' Despite Everything Being Secret ? click here
Conditions Ripe For Corruption in Local Government States Transparency International Report ? click here
Main photo shows Salford City Mayor, Paul Dennett, at MIPIM, complete with Manchester lanyard