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WALTHAM FOREST: Anti-terrorism cash spent on ice cream

MONEY intended for fighting Muslim extremism in Waltham Forest was spent on ice cream and dinners, it has emerged.

The Guardian has obtained documents which show that the Leytonstone Muslim Community Centre (LMCC) used thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ cash on food.

The organisation, which was little-known locally and not registered as a charity or company, was paid to run programmes to create positive Muslim role models following the high-profile anti-terrorism arrests in 2006.

The brief was to create 30 such young muslim leaders, but only half completed the programme.

Documents detailing expenses claims totalling £4000 for three events, including an Eid celebration at the Ivory mansion banqueting suite in Leytonstone High Road, reveal the organisation charged taxpayers £75 for ice cream and £1024 for catering and entertainment.

This is despite the LMCC making no mention of such activities in its original bid document.

The council’s contract with the organisation also stated that such expenditure on ‘entertaining’ and events of a ‘exclusively religious nature’ was not permitted.

A council evaluation of the LMCC’s work said that while it held three, ‘well-attended’ community days, no mention was made of extremism during these events.

It was also found that the organisation had ‘no specific expertise in the Prevent agenda’ and projects relied on the use of expensive freelance trainers ‘offering little value for money’.

The review states that ten schools were supposed to have been visited as part of the programme, but only three were.

The LMCC, which is based above a solicitors in Leytonstone High Road, was recently established as a charity with the aim of tackling poverty and promoting equality and religious tolerance.

In its original applications to the council for funding, the organisation stated it had close links to former council leader, and current cabinet member, Clyde Loakes.

The Active Change Foundation, based in Lea bridge Road, Leyton, also received money to help fight extremism despite at the time being classified as a “maximum risk company” in financial terms.

The pilot aspects of these programmes were paid for using money from the Better Neighbourhoods Initiative (BNI).

Investigations have revealed that rules to prevent fraud were regularly ignored when the council commissioned BNI projects.

Council spending on its One Community campaign, also launched in the wake of the 2006 anti-terrorism arrests, has also been called into question, with little evidence that contracts were properly procured or monitored.

A Government committee in 2010 expressed concern that local authorities were left with too much responsibility for deciding how projects to tackle extremism were managed.

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Comments (15)

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4:59pm Fri 23 Jul 10

fjl says...

If the rules have not been followed then the money should be paid back.
If the rules have not been followed then the money should be paid back. fjl
  • Score: 0

7:01pm Fri 23 Jul 10

Techno2 says...

fjl wrote:
If the rules have not been followed then the money should be paid back.
Every penny.

And no more public money should be spent on this ridiculous and undemocratic programme.
[quote][p][bold]fjl[/bold] wrote: If the rules have not been followed then the money should be paid back.[/p][/quote]Every penny. And no more public money should be spent on this ridiculous and undemocratic programme. Techno2
  • Score: 0

10:04pm Fri 23 Jul 10

Quintilis says...

fjl wrote:
If the rules have not been followed then the money should be paid back.
Quite so, fjl, but the allegation has yet to be proved so we shouldn't rush to judgement. The fact that food was served is not in itself venal. If the cost was wrongly taken out of the budget then it should be paid back. However, when discussing events organised by Muslim groups culturally dubious assumptions tend to creep into the narrative. Can you imagine, for example, holding a young people's event at Christmas, that didn't include laying on the usual seasonal refreshments such as mince pies, cake and trifle etc? Why should an Eid event be any different in that respect?
[quote][p][bold]fjl[/bold] wrote: If the rules have not been followed then the money should be paid back.[/p][/quote]Quite so, fjl, but the allegation has yet to be proved so we shouldn't rush to judgement. The fact that food was served is not in itself venal. If the cost was wrongly taken out of the budget then it should be paid back. However, when discussing events organised by Muslim groups culturally dubious assumptions tend to creep into the narrative. Can you imagine, for example, holding a young people's event at Christmas, that didn't include laying on the usual seasonal refreshments such as mince pies, cake and trifle etc? Why should an Eid event be any different in that respect? Quintilis
  • Score: 0

10:43pm Fri 23 Jul 10

hotredman says...

Serves the council right, what a daft idea. Why on earth would they think spending money in this way could stop extremism. IMO they are only contributing more hatred towards the council themself.
Serves the council right, what a daft idea. Why on earth would they think spending money in this way could stop extremism. IMO they are only contributing more hatred towards the council themself. hotredman
  • Score: 0

11:16pm Fri 23 Jul 10

Quintilis says...

Engaging with young people in an effort to promote a counter-narrative to extremist ideology a daft idea, hotrodman? Oh well, in that case let's just leave it up to extremists to get on with the job of indoctrinating our young people. As to promoting hatred towards the council's efforts in this regard, negative stories like this do far more harm. Young Muslims reading this story are likely to think if they are not going to be trusted they may as well be hanged for a sheep as for a lamb. Such stories merely fuel the already simmering alienation and resentment many young Muslims feel about the way their community and religion is portrayed in the media.
Engaging with young people in an effort to promote a counter-narrative to extremist ideology a daft idea, hotrodman? Oh well, in that case let's just leave it up to extremists to get on with the job of indoctrinating our young people. As to promoting hatred towards the council's efforts in this regard, negative stories like this do far more harm. Young Muslims reading this story are likely to think if they are not going to be trusted they may as well be hanged for a sheep as for a lamb. Such stories merely fuel the already simmering alienation and resentment many young Muslims feel about the way their community and religion is portrayed in the media. Quintilis
  • Score: 0

11:29pm Fri 23 Jul 10

Techno2 says...

Quintilis wrote:
fjl wrote: If the rules have not been followed then the money should be paid back.
Quite so, fjl, but the allegation has yet to be proved so we shouldn't rush to judgement. The fact that food was served is not in itself venal. If the cost was wrongly taken out of the budget then it should be paid back. However, when discussing events organised by Muslim groups culturally dubious assumptions tend to creep into the narrative. Can you imagine, for example, holding a young people's event at Christmas, that didn't include laying on the usual seasonal refreshments such as mince pies, cake and trifle etc? Why should an Eid event be any different in that respect?
They started with 30 'leaders' and ended up with half as many. £150,000 spent on a programme to create 15 'role models' is not value for money, especially if there is little chance that the people who were selected for this nonsense were ever actually potential terrorists themselves.

And how are the outcomes for this gross waste of public money to be measured? If not one of these 15 young men or any of their circle of friends plants a bomb it was worth the dosh?
[quote][p][bold]Quintilis[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]fjl[/bold] wrote: If the rules have not been followed then the money should be paid back.[/p][/quote]Quite so, fjl, but the allegation has yet to be proved so we shouldn't rush to judgement. The fact that food was served is not in itself venal. If the cost was wrongly taken out of the budget then it should be paid back. However, when discussing events organised by Muslim groups culturally dubious assumptions tend to creep into the narrative. Can you imagine, for example, holding a young people's event at Christmas, that didn't include laying on the usual seasonal refreshments such as mince pies, cake and trifle etc? Why should an Eid event be any different in that respect?[/p][/quote]They started with 30 'leaders' and ended up with half as many. £150,000 spent on a programme to create 15 'role models' is not value for money, especially if there is little chance that the people who were selected for this nonsense were ever actually potential terrorists themselves. And how are the outcomes for this gross waste of public money to be measured? If not one of these 15 young men or any of their circle of friends plants a bomb it was worth the dosh? Techno2
  • Score: 0

9:56am Sat 24 Jul 10

Rodka says...

This is probably the tip of the iceberg. Its easy to spend other peoples money - a fool can do that. Its intelligence that makes the money!
This is probably the tip of the iceberg. Its easy to spend other peoples money - a fool can do that. Its intelligence that makes the money! Rodka
  • Score: 0

10:54am Sat 24 Jul 10

NT says...

This story is not really about either of the organisations mentioned, or the people that they worked with.
It's about the way that LBWF handles public money.
And I'm afraid it is consistent with a whole number of other stories that have emerged over the past few years, which show that, in this respect, LBWF's performance is rather poor, both absolutely and relatively.
Some in the Council have learnt the lessons, but others seem to believe that they can go on behaving as if nothing had happened.
This intransigence damages us all, because right now, with the cuts about to hit us, we need our local political leadership to be in the best shape possible to mitigate the consequences. And here, reputation is everything...
This story is not really about either of the organisations mentioned, or the people that they worked with. It's about the way that LBWF handles public money. And I'm afraid it is consistent with a whole number of other stories that have emerged over the past few years, which show that, in this respect, LBWF's performance is rather poor, both absolutely and relatively. Some in the Council have learnt the lessons, but others seem to believe that they can go on behaving as if nothing had happened. This intransigence damages us all, because right now, with the cuts about to hit us, we need our local political leadership to be in the best shape possible to mitigate the consequences. And here, reputation is everything... NT
  • Score: 0

11:29am Sat 24 Jul 10

Quintilis says...

Wise words from NT, as ever. Just to correct Techno2's assumption about the 'role models' is not that these young people were themselves prone to extremism (although some might have been) but that they commanded respect from their peers and were able to present a cogent counter-narrative to extremist ideology. Can one put a price on this? I guess in a society that knows the price of everything and the value of nothing, one can.
Wise words from NT, as ever. Just to correct Techno2's assumption about the 'role models' is not that these young people were themselves prone to extremism (although some might have been) but that they commanded respect from their peers and were able to present a cogent counter-narrative to extremist ideology. Can one put a price on this? I guess in a society that knows the price of everything and the value of nothing, one can. Quintilis
  • Score: 0

12:08pm Sat 24 Jul 10

md-j says...

'Private Eye' provides more detail:

'The Active Change Foundation received its money despite a Council vetting document having warned it was a 'maximum risk' company, with a 'noticeably worsening payment pattern'. On its application for funding the ACF stated it had 'close links' to the council, due to its association with the Lea Bridge Rd Mosque. That was undoubtedly true, given that 12 of Waltham Forest's councillors worship there'.

So the story is not about small sums spent on ice cream, or the well-intended objectives of the exercise, but that well-designed scrutiny procedures can apparently be overidden if a few favoured insiders say so.
In this Borough, one could just sigh and say that fact hardly makes for a news item. But it would be nice if the Council Leader, who has been too busy to attend his local Community Council for a year now, could display some of the openness and transparency he promised us on taking office, and tell us what steps he has taken to track down this money
'Private Eye' provides more detail: 'The Active Change Foundation received its money despite a Council vetting document having warned it was a 'maximum risk' company, with a 'noticeably worsening payment pattern'. On its application for funding the ACF stated it had 'close links' to the council, due to its association with the Lea Bridge Rd Mosque. That was undoubtedly true, given that 12 of Waltham Forest's councillors worship there'. So the story is not about small sums spent on ice cream, or the well-intended objectives of the exercise, but that well-designed scrutiny procedures can apparently be overidden if a few favoured insiders say so. In this Borough, one could just sigh and say that fact hardly makes for a news item. But it would be nice if the Council Leader, who has been too busy to attend his local Community Council for a year now, could display some of the openness and transparency he promised us on taking office, and tell us what steps he has taken to track down this money md-j
  • Score: 0

12:14pm Sat 24 Jul 10

Walthamster says...

Quintilis - this isn't like bringing out a plate of mince pies at Christmas. This was over £1000 spent on an event at a banqueting suite. The story says "a contract between the council and the LMCC explicitly stated that expenses could not be claimed on entertaining."

They broke the contract.

I believe your intentions are generous, Quintilis. But I fear that making excuses for the endless deliberate wrong-doing of this council and its cronies just fuels people's anger.
Quintilis - this isn't like bringing out a plate of mince pies at Christmas. This was over £1000 spent on an event at a banqueting suite. The story says "a contract between the council and the LMCC explicitly stated that expenses could not be claimed on entertaining." They broke the contract. I believe your intentions are generous, Quintilis. But I fear that making excuses for the endless deliberate wrong-doing of this council and its cronies just fuels people's anger. Walthamster
  • Score: 0

1:14pm Sat 24 Jul 10

Techno2 says...

Quintilis wrote:
Wise words from NT, as ever. Just to correct Techno2's assumption about the 'role models' is not that these young people were themselves prone to extremism (although some might have been) but that they commanded respect from their peers and were able to present a cogent counter-narrative to extremist ideology. Can one put a price on this? I guess in a society that knows the price of everything and the value of nothing, one can.
What was the evidence for this alleged 'respect' ? And where is the evidence that they actually presented this 'coherent argument'?

It seems that these so-called leaders only managed to show enough 'leadership' to find themselves into 30% of the schools the council was being billed for their attendance at. They did however manage to make their way to the Town Hall for a celebratory scoff with Councillor Loakes, so if we are to judge them by the company they keep I suppose you are right, they are all fine upstanding citizens and a credit to us all.
[quote][p][bold]Quintilis[/bold] wrote: Wise words from NT, as ever. Just to correct Techno2's assumption about the 'role models' is not that these young people were themselves prone to extremism (although some might have been) but that they commanded respect from their peers and were able to present a cogent counter-narrative to extremist ideology. Can one put a price on this? I guess in a society that knows the price of everything and the value of nothing, one can.[/p][/quote]What was the evidence for this alleged 'respect' ? And where is the evidence that they actually presented this 'coherent argument'? It seems that these so-called leaders only managed to show enough 'leadership' to find themselves into 30% of the schools the council was being billed for their attendance at. They did however manage to make their way to the Town Hall for a celebratory scoff with Councillor Loakes, so if we are to judge them by the company they keep I suppose you are right, they are all fine upstanding citizens and a credit to us all. Techno2
  • Score: 0

3:10pm Sat 24 Jul 10

Quintilis says...

I agree, Techno2, that these things need to be evidenced. My point was not that that had happened but that it was the intention - and I believe a genuine and benign one. I also agree with md-j about the dangers of scrutiny procedures being overridden by those anxious to retain a power-base. It is good of Walthamster to acknowledge the generosity of my intentions. I hope I'm not naif, I just think we shouldn't jump to conclusions that a) might not be justified by the facts or that b) might spring from (consciously or unconsciously) prejudiced cultural assumptions.
I agree, Techno2, that these things need to be evidenced. My point was not that that had happened but that it was the intention - and I believe a genuine and benign one. I also agree with md-j about the dangers of scrutiny procedures being overridden by those anxious to retain a power-base. It is good of Walthamster to acknowledge the generosity of my intentions. I hope I'm not naif, I just think we shouldn't jump to conclusions that a) might not be justified by the facts or that b) might spring from (consciously or unconsciously) prejudiced cultural assumptions. Quintilis
  • Score: 0

4:38pm Sat 24 Jul 10

Techno2 says...

More serious possiblyeven than the inept execution of the 'Prevent' programme locally (I can't entirely blame those parts of the Central government, however misguided thier policy, from failing to appreciate just how useless Walthm Forest Council can be at implemting something until they actually get to see it for themselves and learn their lesson) was its misguided strategic direction and the assumptions that underly it.

This programme cost some £60 million and had some serious flaws. Fundamentally, it appeared to place the whole Muslim community under suspicion and conflated community development work with intelligence gathering.

In October 2009 the Institute of Race Relations (IRR) produced a report based on interviews with people involved in delivering the Prevent Progamme. It found that local authorities were receiving funding on the basis of the number of Muslims in their population, suggesting that the whole community was 'suspect'; that funding decisions lacked transparency and accountability; that Prevent strategies could run counter to aspects of the 'community cohesion' agenda; and that those delivering Prevent were becoming increasingly wary of the expectations on them to provide the police with information on young Muslims and their religious and political opinions.

The evaluations of the value of the intelligence which has been collected from children as young as 11 are presumably secret because they are not in the public domain, but I would bet that most of the so-called 'intelligence' has been pants.

The Commons Select Committee which also examined the Prevent Programme concluded that ' approach is contentious and is unlikely ever to be fully accepted by those it is most important to engage'.
More serious possiblyeven than the inept execution of the 'Prevent' programme locally (I can't entirely blame those parts of the Central government, however misguided thier policy, from failing to appreciate just how useless Walthm Forest Council can be at implemting something until they actually get to see it for themselves and learn their lesson) was its misguided strategic direction and the assumptions that underly it. This programme cost some £60 million and had some serious flaws. Fundamentally, it appeared to place the whole Muslim community under suspicion and conflated community development work with intelligence gathering. In October 2009 the Institute of Race Relations (IRR) produced a report based on interviews with people involved in delivering the Prevent Progamme. It found that local authorities were receiving funding on the basis of the number of Muslims in their population, suggesting that the whole community was 'suspect'; that funding decisions lacked transparency and accountability; that Prevent strategies could run counter to aspects of the 'community cohesion' agenda; and that those delivering Prevent were becoming increasingly wary of the expectations on them to provide the police with information on young Muslims and their religious and political opinions. The evaluations of the value of the intelligence which has been collected from children as young as 11 are presumably secret because they are not in the public domain, but I would bet that most of the so-called 'intelligence' has been pants. The Commons Select Committee which also examined the Prevent Programme concluded that '[Prevent's] approach is contentious and is unlikely ever to be fully accepted by those it is most important to engage'. Techno2
  • Score: 0

12:34pm Sun 25 Jul 10

Quintilis says...

All of what you say is true, Techno2. The Prevent agenda is certainly flawed and even those actively engaged with it are aware of this and robustly criticise it. Nevertheless, they are prepared to give it the benefit of the doubt and put their goodwill behind it so long as they be reassured a) that it is responsive to criticism and b) that it is working. The new government will doubtless have a view of Prevent's effectiveness and changes may well come top-down unbidden, but I am impressed that many Muslims (and some non-Muslims) working in the community and with youth are willing to put their credibility on the line in the hope of tackling what is, despite attempts from some quarters to sweep it under the carpet, a serious problem in our society. It is also true that in areas with high Muslim populations, the emphasis will be on tackling Islamist extremism but in other areas this could equally well be animal rights or right-wing/racist extremists. We often hear the phrase "doing nothing is not an option". Politically, in fact, it almost always is - but not in this instance.
All of what you say is true, Techno2. The Prevent agenda is certainly flawed and even those actively engaged with it are aware of this and robustly criticise it. Nevertheless, they are prepared to give it the benefit of the doubt and put their goodwill behind it so long as they be reassured a) that it is responsive to criticism and b) that it is working. The new government will doubtless have a view of Prevent's effectiveness and changes may well come top-down unbidden, but I am impressed that many Muslims (and some non-Muslims) working in the community and with youth are willing to put their credibility on the line in the hope of tackling what is, despite attempts from some quarters to sweep it under the carpet, a serious problem in our society. It is also true that in areas with high Muslim populations, the emphasis will be on tackling Islamist extremism but in other areas this could equally well be animal rights or right-wing/racist extremists. We often hear the phrase "doing nothing is not an option". Politically, in fact, it almost always is - but not in this instance. Quintilis
  • Score: 0

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