Monday, 29 August 2016

Where's the free press in Tameside? What has happened to democracy?

Hail the Leader

A number of people have told us of their difficulty in getting letters published in the local newspaper, the Tameside Reporter & Chronicle. In September 2012, we revealed in an exclusive report that New Charter Housing Trust had bought the newspaper. Given New Charter's very close links with Tameside Council, we asked if this wasn't a sad day for democracy. At the time of the takeover, the Manchester Branch of the National Union of Journalists(NUJ), suggested that New Charter had acted as a 'proxy' for Tameside Council in buying the Reporter. Another commentator predicted that we would see "Lashings of corporate agenda and the banning of dissenting voices."

Many of the senior managers at New Charter Housing Trust, including Ian Munro, Group Chief Executive, were former Tameside Council employees. Similarly, a number of Tameside Councillor's are on the Boards of New Charter including 'proudly pro-business', Kieran Quinn, the Labour leader of the council. The housing trust also run three 'Academy' schools in the borough and own Tameside Radio, the local radio station. The council also used New Charter as an agency to run the 'Troubled Families' initiative, a failed government scheme that targeted families who were considered to have social problems.  Each agency was paid a £1,000 fee and an £800 result fee. The work was not put out to tender by the council and no other agency was invited to  apply. The council argued at the time that they were under no legal obligation to do so, as special rules applied. In August, it was reported that nationally, the £1.3bn scheme, had had "no discernable impact" on employment, truancy, or criminality.

Given the level of cronyism and nepotism which is a characteristic of the incestuous nature of Labour politics in Tameside, it is arguable whether there is any free press in this part of Greater Manchester. Politically, the borough is effectively a one party state. In 2013, the Electoral Reform Society (ERS), said that Labour dominated councils like Manchester, Salford and Tameside, were at risk of becoming the equivalent of 'one-party states' like North Korea, China or Cuba. In the Autumn of 2008, 'Private Eye', disclosed that agents of the council, were holding regular meetings with local newspaper editors, to suppress 'sensationalist' reporting.

One third of Tameside Council is comprised of married couples, couples, or people who are related to one another. Both the leader of the council, and his wife, Susan Quinn, are Droylsden councillors. The wife of Roy Oldham, a Freemason, and previous Labour leader of the council,  was also a Tameside Councillor. During 2011-12, the Quinn family, pulled- in between them, £111,314.96 from their political appointments as Labour councillors.

Needless to say, you're not likely to read about any of this in the Tameside Reporter & Chronicle, which nowadays, struggles to give the newspaper away free. You certainly won't find a word of criticism in the newspaper today, regarding either the council, or New Charter Housing. Is it any wonder that newspapers are going out of business when they no longer hold the powerful to account which is a hallmark of a properly functioning democracy. Since 2008, 150 local newspapers have closed in England and it's hardly surprising. How a housing company with such close links to the council, have been allowed to control a radio station and a local newspaper, beggars belief. What we have here, is Tammany politics in Tameside.

1 comment:

Captain Macheath said...

When New Charter took over the Ripsnorter, the Editor, Nigel Skinner, was the only member of staff to keep his Job. All the other journalists were then dumped and New Charter then recruited unpaid interns and volunteers to do their jobs. It's journalism on the cheap that is their speciality.

The paper now seems to have a stable of regular letter writers who get in almost weekly, such as Harry Singleton, Cllr John Taylor and his 'ghost-written missives' and the regular boring anti-Leftists and pro-Zionist rants, from ex-Trot (Workers Revolutionary Party), Alan O'Day Scott, from Stalybridge, who has now got almost a page to himself. Many of these letters have very little local relevance as other correspondents have pointed out, but they do have this in common: they're all by and large, anti-Jeremy Corbyn. Does this reflect the political stance of the head honchos at New Charter who own the paper and Tameside Council, who's leader, is anti-Corbyn, and 'proudly pro-business'.