Salford mayor candidates set out policies in BBC debate

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Candidates standing for the directly-elected mayor of Salford have set out their policies in a BBC debate.

Nine of the 10 candidates took part in the 90-minute debate in front of an audience. Held at MediaCityUK, it was broadcast live on BBC Radio Manchester.

During the sometimes heated debate, audience members questioned candidates about their policies on housing, transport and the mayoral salary.

Elections for the city's first elected mayor will be held on 3 May.

Labour party candidate Ian Stewart declined to take part in the debate due to the presence of a BNP candidate.

'Decline of city'

English Democrat candidate Michael Felse said his "main standing point would be to cut council tax by 50%" and recall a £730m regeneration programme to evaluate whether it was value for money.

Karen Garrido, standing for the Conservatives, said she would deliver "lower council tax year on year but not harm front-line services" and if elected she would "declare Salford open for business" and explore "imaginative ways to bring business into the city".

UKIP candidate Bernard Gill said he was "not a career or professional politician" but a pensioner "concerned about the decline of our city".

Hustings are nothing new. But this election is. It is the first time voters in Salford have the chance to decide who runs the council in the new post of city mayor.

There is plenty of choice across the political spectrum from Left to Right. The major parties, minor parties and independents are well represented.

But there was no clear winner from among the candidates. Certainly the government's dream of a high-profile champion emerging to run the city appears not to have been realised. Whoever wins might well grow into this role. But until then, voters may have to settle for nothing more exciting than competence.

The candidates though must be well aware of the expectations upon them. The audience seemed to want them to create jobs, end the housing shortage and all on a modest salary.

Whoever wins might be wise to start playing down expectations before they enter office.

He said pensioners who saved for their retirement had "been let down by governments nationally and locally".

Independent candidate Paul Massey said: "I'm here for the people. No-one trusts politicians any more, if people of Salford back me I'll be your voice."

He said he was concerned about "communities being broken up" and appealed for voters to "reunite behind me".

Michael Moulding, for the Community Action Party, said 2011 had been "Salford's annus horribilis" due to the August riots and the shooting of Anuj Bidve.

If elected he pledged to "review the role" of the council's chief executive.

Joe O'Neill, of the Green Party, said his manifesto was "fuelled by fairness and a desire to reduce the gap between rich and poor".

He said: "I will defend public services, protect the environment, strengthen local democracy, champion diversity, improve local transport and boost the local economy."

'Zero tolerance'

BNP candidate Edward O'Sullivan said: "We listen to people and what they want. When people in Salford come to me they say the thing they are angry about is the housing policies of the council.

He said he would abolish the "ridiculous bidding system" for housing which he said "is unfair to British people".

Liberal Democrat Norman Owen said: "We need somebody to drag this city out of the situation it is in."

He said he would "appoint a cross party cabinet" and "ensure that every child's education counts". He would also "fight poverty and deprivation" and "restore heritage sites and promote tourism".

In a pre-recorded item, Labour's Ian Stewart said: "I want the best for the people of Salford and their families. I would make Salford into a co-operative city. I want to develop Salford as an eco-city."

He said he would develop a green community bank, build local food co-operatives, involve residents in housing decisions and introduce "a citywide collective energy purchasing scheme".

Independent candidate Pat Ward said: "My policies are zero tolerance, helping our children and elderly."

She said she would review how council tax was administered and she believed "we are spending a lot of money on unnecessary projects in Salford."

A full list of candidates can be seen here.

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