Madam Chair & Members of the Council,
It’s a pleasure to address everyone here today, reflecting on a whole year into the Mayoral term.
As we all know, things have been tough and challenging over the past year, but also exhilarating and deeply humbling at times.
There could be no greater honour to me than to continue serving the people of this great city.
I’d like to thank all members of the Mayoral Team for their dedication and hard work over the past 12 months and our fantastic staff who work tirelessly to support and help our residents.
…and each and every member of this City Council for you dedication, commitment and passion to see the very best for the residents of our great city.
It’s also clear from the recent Greater Manchester Mayoral Election results that the people of Salford continue to trust the Labour Party, with every ward in our city voting Labour
…this is a fantastic result and I’d like to congratulate Andy Burnham on his success in securing 63% of the vote, given him a strong mandate to govern.
But it has been a tough year, both in Salford and across Britain.
Tory austerity policies continue to ravage our economy, driving down growth, creating a more unequal, more unjust society.
Let’s not forget Fat Cat Wednesday, 2 ½ days into the start of this year FTSE 100 CEOs earned the entire average annual salary of a UK worker, with the Equality Trust highlighting that these same CEOs receive:
172 x what a nurse earns
145 x what a teacher earns
324 x what a care worker earns
401 x what a minimum wage earner earns in a year
We are told time and time again that we are living through an historic period of high employment.
But we know these statistics are grossly distorted...
With people falling through the welfare safety net, being made homeless, sofa surfing, living in temporary accommodation and shelters, being subjected to benefit sanctions and conditionality, including in-work conditionality where employees aren’t offered ‘enough’ pay or hours and those failing to claim unemployment benefits in an increasingly complex, de-humanised and punitive benefits system.
But even without the distortions, this claim reveals a more significant reality – that the Tories are creating a low-skilled, low-waged economy:
More people are in work, yet we have nurses using foodbanks.
More people are in work, yet we have more homeless people on our streets.
More people are in work, yet we have more people working on zero hours contracts, working two jobs, and getting the lowest rates of pay.
More people are in work, yet personal and household debt continues to rise.
This is more than just a flawed economic strategy, this is a cultural and social catastrophe.
We are remoulding an entire new generation without knowledge of economic security, without hope of home ownership, without career progression or the chance to access the wealth and services of society.
This is a collapse of the social contract between citizens and the State. And where that happens there are consequences. Crime is on the increase, new drugs like Spice are plaguing our towns and cities, our prisons are full and the inmates are rioting. People are becoming more frightened and angry.
And austerity trickles down to have a local impact, too.
As we’re all only too aware, Salford City Council has had its budgets slashed - £186m in Salford, 47% of our budget gone since 2010!
That cut has seen us lose half of our staff, reduce access to services across the city, reducing care packages and support for the homeless.
Just as demand for these services is increasing, our ability to pay is being hammered as the Revenue Support Grant – our redistributive lifeline – is being dismantled as government forges ahead with its agenda of self-financing for local government.
Last year the government responded to a crisis of its own making in Adult Social Care by raiding Salford’s New Homes Bonus to the tune of £3.5m. The money they raised failed to even slightly tackle the problem they faced in Adult Care, but cost Salford Council a net £2.3m.
That’s £2.3m less for the people of this city,
£2.3m less to deal with Adult Social Care,
£2.3m less to deal with the crisis the Tories made themselves.
And this is only one example of the bungling incompetence of the present administration.
The party of ‘low taxation’ then went on to issue an increase in the Adult Social Care precept, forcing us to raise our council tax by 4.99% to cover the remaining cost.
This disgraceful policy once again puts the squeeze on those with the lowest incomes – the most vulnerable in our society.
And the ‘low-tax’ conservatives continue to introduce new policies attacking the most vulnerable – from Hammond discussing increases in VAT to attacks on the state pension.
And no wonder they have to increase taxes, when the UK national debt increased under George Osborne and continues to increase under Philip Hammond and Theresa May, standing at around £1.7 trillion.
We have campaigned in this city for a fair crack of the whip, applying for the transition grants awarded to so many Home County authorities to help ease the immediate burden of cuts. But unlike Tory-run Surrey Council, we all know there were no sweetheart deals for Salford Labour-run authority.
Cronyism, incompetence, filibustering and obfuscation are clearly the hallmarks of this administration.
But despite the best efforts of the Conservatives to starve Labour authorities like ours, we have achieved great things as a council over the past year. One of my first decisions as Mayor was to take a pay cut to draw attention to grotesque levels of executive pay (as already highlighted) in many of the boardrooms of this country. More recently, we have led a senior management review, which has resulted in further reduction in management as a means to further protect front-line services.
During my election I campaigned, amongst other things, for well-paid jobs for ordinary Salfordians. Some of the work we have been committed to since gaining office is truly exciting.
MediaCity is now a national example of an industrial tech-hub, with job growth rates for start-ups higher than even London. It is rapidly becoming a specialised centre for digital and tech-creative industries from around the world, providing an avenue through which local people can train for the high-end, high-paid jobs of the future.
That success is part and parcel of Salford Labour’s long-term planning decisions and foresight, making the right economic decisions for the people of this city over a span of decades. Right now we are continuing in this legacy, endorsing the development of Port Salford, a MediaCity expansion and driving for key national assets such as the relocation of Channel 4.
There is even talk of the Guardian considering Salford’s MediaCityUK its future home.
With the development of Port Salford, we will become home to the latest industrial advancements in manufacturing, logistics and engineering too.
Our proactive role in the development of the local economy has set the groundwork for a prosperous future for the people of our city, and over the coming years we will reap further benefits from these long-term investments.
I also promised an agenda for care and the elderly, health and social care.
Despite vicious attacks on the care system by the government, drastic underfunding of services and continued devolution of the financial burden onto local authorities like our own, it was my pleasure to announce a £3m anti-poverty package at this year’s budget.
That money will be targeted at housing and accommodation, support services for domestic violence, winter heating, support for those in crisis and homelessness.
It’s an investment that displays our priorities in Salford – for the poorest, most vulnerable and those in need.
Here in Salford we are committed to fighting back where we can, and innovating with new ways of doing things to continue to provide for our residents.
That’s why we’ve also been building a new housing development company, to allow the local authority to build low cost affordable home for the first time in decades.
Using market rents and sales to subsidize truly affordable rents, we have built a locally self-sustaining business model, through which we can systematically increase our low cost affordable accommodation in the city.
With 7512 people on our housing waiting list, 750 new social/council homes needed to be built every year according to the government’s own methodology and 1800 using our housing choice services - it is critical we find real solutions to these issues!
Salford is leading the way both regionally and nationally in local housing policy, and I hope to be able to announce our first build over the near future.
Further to this, we are also researching other potentialities for the Development company, to allow the local authority to continue to develop commercial properties and infrastructure in Salford using the proceeds to cross-subsidize our core services.
If the government won’t give us the money we need to look after the people of this city, we will aim to achieve it ourselves.
Not by raising taxes, not by increasing costs on the local community, but by intelligent and innovative activity to raise local government income.
But as the old adage goes, we want bread, but we want roses too.
As a council we are currently engaged in an exciting and dynamic cultural strategy alongside the University and other partners, focussing on the strengths of individual areas of our city rather than adopting the traditional ‘one size fits all’ approach to culture.
Salford is rapidly becoming a hive of avante garde arts spaces, new cafes, venues and artistic industries.
Whether it’s hot-bed press, Greengate, Islington Mill or new venues like Hidden and the White Hotel, we are becoming known across the North West and the country as a hotspot for new artists, events like Sounds from the Other City and unique artistic creation, which saw 2,500 people visit Salford on the 6th May.
This development is no accident. As a local authority we have strived hard to cultivate the conditions – low rent and minimal bureaucracy – to allow these institutions to thrive.
And in partnership with the University we have also embarked on a collaborative ‘Learning City’ project to increase local uptake of Salford University courses and degrees, and to foster a culture of lifelong learning in our city.
The Learning City is designed to tap into ‘hard-to-reach’ communities, providing spaces for learning and development off campus - educational experiences which don’t fall into the normal category of academic assessment and control.
What we’re doing is putting education back in the hands of residents who feel disengaged from academia and formal institutional environments, whilst also forging direct links between local employers, our educational institutions and creating new avenues for training and personal development.
What is clear, in light of the present election, is that there are two visions facing this country. The Tories stand for austerity, misery and despair, whilst up and down the country Labour offers a vision for the betterment of peoples’ lives.
Labour enter this election campaigning on a radical program to renationalise rail, mail and power – to invest strategically in our industries and give every British citizen access to decent health, education and employment.
The Tories claim this is ‘taking Britain back to the 1970s’. I’d rather go back to the 1970s if we’re to make progress For the Many and Not the Few
…which is in stark contrast to the 1930s vision of insecurity, poverty and misery offered by Theresa May!
As a local Labour Party we should be proud of the achievements of the past year, in extremely trying circumstances.
Salford Labour is leading the way in GM – and providing a model for the whole country. I would like to thank each and every one of you for your support.