Anyone who has noticed Newham council’s regular appearances in Private Eye will know that the local authority has problems with transparency. So this is the first of a couple of blog posts on the council receiving government funds and displaying a lack of openness about the way they have actually spent the money – even when responding to a Freedom of Information Act (FoIA) request.
In February, I submitted a FoIA request about funding received from the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) and its Migration Impact Fund. This was launched in March 2009 and was intended to target projects that “have identified innovative solutions to migration related pressures - where possible involving and benefiting a number of local services”. It is quite specifically not intended to replace mainstream service provision and DCLG said that projects “must be able to demonstrate that they bring benefits to the settled as well as the migrant community in an area. For example additional English language provision for migrants will mean reducing the cost to public services from translation and interpretation.”
As absolutely no-one locally who is involved in providing English language classes seemed to have any clue about how Newham’s proportion of the funding was being spent, I asked the following question:
The response was classic Newham council. DCLG’s own allocation table shows that it was awarded £179,000 but the council says it received only £97,000. Of this, £48,000 was transferred into the current financial year with the agreement of the Government Office for London and there was no detailed breakdown of the remaining £49,000 for 2009/10. All we know is that a member of staff was apparently recruited at what seems like a scale PO2 level and the only other expenditure was for recruitment. Even then, Newham council still under spent by £13,000. So where has the money gone?
Please could you provide a detailed breakdown of expenditure (including any under-spend) of the £179,000 allocated in 2009/10 by Government Office for London to London Borough of Newham under the Migration Impacts Fund?
I’m no nearer to understanding how the council intends to provide “innovative solutions to migration related pressures” – if anyone can offer any more revealing information, I would be very grateful.
The full response from Newham council is available on the What Do They Know website