Back in March, Salford City Mayor, Paul Dennett, and two of his officers - Chief Executive Jim Taylor and Head of Development, Shelagh McNerney - went to the MIPIM property orgy in the South of France to launch the Crescent Masterplan (before the community had been consulted on it).
The Masterplan consisted of plans for thousands of apartments, new buildings and student accommodation. The Salford Star immediately put in a Freedom of Information request to find the costs of the trip. A reply was received stating that the total cost was £4,022.42 (Transport £1,987.66; Hotels £1,943.69 and Expenses £91.07), adding that "All costs in attending have been covered through private sector contributions".
The Star submitted another Freedom of Information request, asking which company or companies had funded the trip. The information was refused point blank by the Council, arguing that "the commercial interests of the Council outweigh that of the public interest in disclosure, as release of this information would undermine the Council's trading position" and "would prejudice the Council's commercial interests..."
The Star asked for an internal review of the decision but again this was rebuffed, with Council solicitor, Miranda Carruthers-Watt, standing by the decision as there would be a "Clear harm...to the city's economic interests". Indeed, she added, it was in the "public interest" to keep it secret.
The Star then brought in the Information Commissioner and, lo and behold, the information on who paid for the Mayor MIPIM trip was immediately revealed.
Today, the Council wrote to the Salford Star stating "Since the complaint was made we have contacted the organisations and the majority have not objected to the release of the information and therefore it has been decided that the information be released..."
Who paid for the Mayor's trip? Over a dozen developers and construction companies, arguably with a massive vested interest in schmoozing the Mayor.
The companies are...
Renaker – which got a public money loan of £35.1million from the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) to build a huge block of 497 private rent flats at Greengate One, with no affordable housing and the avoidance of £1.9million in planning fees (with a clawback), although the company did kindly agree to provide a replica market cross.
English Cities Fund (ECf) – a joint venture of Muse developments, Legal and General and the HCA which is busy building obscenely expensive properties around Chapel Street, with no affordable housing and a secret Development Trust fund, avoiding Section 106 payments.
UK Land and Property – currently building 375 'build to rent units' on Gore Street, and avoided over £1million in planning fees according to Salford Star estimates.
Scarborough Group – the Far East financed company that got £34.7million in public money loans from the HCA for the Middlewood Locks development of unaffordable properties. A Council report stated that the development should be contributing £8.362million in planning, or Section 106, obligations – but waived them all "to ensure that the combined total impact does not make a site unviable" (with a clawback).
Salboy – Fred Done's company, that raked in a subsidy of £22.5million from the Greater Manchester Housing Investment Loan Fund for its Blackfriars development, while the Council waived £1.28million in Section 106 payments. The company's Crescent development on the site of the Black Horse pub avoided over £1.2million in planning fees, with no affordable housing being provided.
DOMIS – constructing Fred Done's publicly subsidised profit palaces.
Tristan Capital Partners, ASK Real Estate and Richardson – all involved with Salford Council's Embankment 'ugly sisters' office blocks opposite Manchester Cathedral.
BDP – has the public money contract to design the delayed public realm site under the Ordsall Chord.
Bouygues – has the £35million contract to construct The Lightbox at Media City for which owners Peel Holdings was handed a cheap public money loan of £8,302,984 from the Greater Manchester Housing Fund.
MediaCityUK – Peel Holdings branded 'Manchester' island on Salford Quays for which all planning obligations for funds and affordable housing have been waived by Salford Council.
Capita – partners in the Council's joint venture company Urban Vision, which never paid the Council any dividends on its profits, and is finally to lose its contract as work is to be brought in-house by 2020.
University of Salford – used to be an academic institution, now turning into an estates institution as it seeks to make profits from land around the Crescent.
While the Mayor and co's trip to Cannes cost only £4,022.42 (plus £5,750 on marketing and PR, not declared in the Freedom of Information response), citizens might well be forgiven for thinking that the Mayor is getting too close for comfort with a bunch of developers, financiers and speculators...
£4,000 or £4million – it's not the figure that is the problem, it's the ethics that are at stake...
See also previous Salford Star related articles...
Salford Council Spent Over £10,000 on MIPIM Jaunt - click here
Salford Council Refuses to Disclose Who Paid For City Mayor's trip to South of France - click here
* For full details of all the development schemes listed above use the Salford Star search engine to find the articles