Salford candidates grilled at heated mayoral hustings
SALFORD’s mayoral hopefuls locked horns publically for the first time
as they vie for the city’s newest top job in a fiery debate followed by Quays
The free event held at Salford Arts Theatre, saw seven of the 10 shortlisted candidates take to their soapboxes to rally the support of a quizzing, and at times, passionate audience.
Michael Felse (English Democrats); Karen Garrido (Conservatives); Ian Stewart (Labour); Joe O'Neill (Green); Pat Ward (Independent); Paul Massey (Independent); and Norman Owen (Liberal Democrats) lined up to debate everything from council tax cuts to the MediaCityUK BBC controversy.
The hustings come as voters prepare to go to the polls on May 3 to choose Salford’s first directly elected mayor, with a referendum in January confirming the change. 17,344 voted ‘yes’.
Candidates were given three strictly timed minutes to set out their stalls, and all promised to focus on the city’s elderly, unemployed and young people.
Quays News began questioning, with reporter Todd Fitzgerald asking the panel their views on Salford being dubbed ‘a different kettle of fish’ by BBC head Rhian Roberts.
Former Eccles MP, Ian Stewart blamed the media for ‘sensationalising’ the row, and drawing a comparison between crime on the Quays and crime in W12 – pointing out that Shepard’s Bush had six-times as many crimes per month than the corporation’s new base.
MEN political editor, David Ottewell quickly pointed out that the MEN revealed those figures.
Karen Garrido – who vowed to cut political ties with council conservatives and be her own woman as mayor – said: “I would rather be in Salford Quays than in Shepherd’s Bush.
“They never wanted to come here anyway. You’re here now. Get on with it.”
On other issues, Independent Paul Massey said he was not standing for personal gain. He said: “It’s not about me being mayor; it’s about me being the voice of the people of this city.”
He vowed to cap immigration to end housing shortages and tackle anti-social behaviour by teaching children morals and respect.
The issue of cuts provided for much debate, with independent Pat Ward, an ex-council officer, promising an end to the ‘waste’ she had seen in the town hall. She said she was the choice for those who thought politicians ‘were as bad as each other’.
Norman Owen branded council chief executive Barbara Spicer a ‘disgrace’ for drawing a six-figure salary, while those below her struggled on minimum wage.
Joe O’Neill said he would slash councillor’s allowances, referring to the ‘farcical’ amounts paid towards special allowances.
He also said Salford’s planning department was guilty of ‘playing politics’ under Labour.
Candidates unanimously agreed that parking fees had all but ruined the city’s shopping precincts.
Michael Felse stood by his manifesto promise to halve council tax, by saving the council’s regeneration budget for ‘another day’, when the city finds itself in a better financial position.
He stood also for the small shopkeeper in face of
retail giants, promising to ‘harness their passion’.
Michael Moulding (Community Action) and Bernard Gill (UKIP) declined to take part. Eddy O’Sullivan (BNP), is also standing, but was not invited.
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