A council agreed with a housing association not to respond to requests for comments from a hyperlocal news magazine, emails obtained by the publisher have revealed.
The Salford Star had been investigating tip-offs from residents about a possible cover-up over the type of cladding found on tower blocks in Salford.
Now it has won a six-month battle with Salford Council to make public a series of emails between Salford Council and Pendleton Together in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy.
While the emails do not show any evidence of a cover-up, they do reveal that the two bodies took a joint decision not to respond to the Star’s comment requests.
The Star had submitted a Freedom of Information request on 28 June for all emails between Councillor Paul Longshaw, the then Salford Council lead member for housing, and any staff member or director at Pendleton Together from 13 June to the date the request was made.
Editor Stephen Kingston told HTFP: “We heard nothing and then unfortunately Cllr Longshaw took his own life in September, so we can understand that it probably wasn’t appropriate to release them around that time.
“By October though there had been no contact from the council so we took it up with the Information Commissioner, who responded saying the matter had been taken up with Salford Council and we should have a response ‘within ten days’.
“On 23 October the council wrote apologising for not responding and that we would get a response ‘shortly’. That response came in on Wednesday, almost six months after we’d first submitted the request.”
The released emails showed a communication on 14 June from Daniel Klemm, head of policy and communications at the Together Housing Group, of which Pendleton Together is a part, to Cllr Longshaw.
Mr Klemm wrote: “As per our agreement with the council we did not respond to the Salford Star. They have covered the story. We’ll keep an eye on this if this is picked up by the wider media such as the Manchester Evening News.”
On 18 June, a further email from Mr Klemm to Cllr Longshaw and other council and Pendleton Together officers copied in,and a link to a further article on the Salford Star, states: “In light of the situation, and following discussions with [Pendleton Together chair] Tom Miskell and Paul Longshaw, we decided to move away from our long standing approach of not responding to the Salford Star.”
Mr Klemm added: “To be fair, on this occasion the story is fairly balanced.”
Stephen said: “What the council fails to realise, is that its officers are paid with public money; that its councillors’ expenses are paid with public money and that the Mayor is also paid with public money.
“As such, they should all be accountable and operate with transparency, whether they like the Salford Star or not.”
HTFP has approached Salford Council for a comment.