A follow-up to my earlier blog post on Newham council's issues with transparency - this time over considerable funding it has received from central government for 'Preventing Violent Extremism' (PVE).
PVE is part of the government’s counter-terrorism strategy, known as CONTEST. It is supposedly community-based and intended to challenge the ideology behind violent extremism, primarily in areas with large numbers of Muslims. It is also extremely controversial - accusations that it has been used to spy on Muslim communities have, to give the most generous interpretation possible, hampered its effectiveness. Others (myself included) see it as thoroughly insidious. This controversy was acknowledged in March by the House of Commons Communities and Local Government Committee.
The Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) says that "most Prevent funding is allocated to local authorities through the non-ring-fenced Area Based Grant (ABG). Not ring-fencing the grant gives local authorities the flexibility to decide how best to use it in their areas, and so helps Prevent to be delivered effectively at a local level." It is, however, clearly intended to be used to support specific projects through grant aid.
Like the Migration Impact Fund, nobody I know in Newham has the slightest idea how he money is allocated, so in February I submitted the following FoIA request:
The answer, once again, was classic Newham. The council confirmed the names of the 17 people on the Preventing Violent Extremism Delivery Group and that the breakdown of government funding allocated to the London Borough of Newham was as follows:
Please could you confirm the amount of funding that the London Borough of Newham has received under the government's Prevent strategy for Preventing Violent Extremism (PVE) in each year to date since the Pathfinder programme in 2007-2008 and provide:
- A copy of LB Newham's current strategy document for delivering the
- Prevent strategy locally
- A copy of the allocated budget for PVE spending in 2009-2010
- A copy of the proposed budget for 2010-11
- Membership of the PVE steering group
- 2007/8 allocation Violent Extremism Pathfinder Fund, £30,000
- 2008/9 allocation, Area Based Grant allocation to Preventing Violent Extremism, £325,000
- 2009/10 allocation, Area Based Grant allocation to Preventing Violent Extremism, £400,000, a subsequent additional allocation of £18,292 was received from Department for Communities and Local Government.
- 2010/11 allocation, Area Based Grant allocation to Preventing Violent Extremism, £473,000, a subsequent additional allocation of £62,830 was received from Department for Communities and Local Government.
Whilst it may not have been possible in February to provide a copy of the budget for 2010/11, there should have been no reason not to provide - eleven months into the financial year - a copy of the allocated budget PVE spending in 2009-2010.
As I have said in my appeal, I would expect, particular because PVE funding is intended to be used to support specific projects through grant aid, to see a breakdown in detail of expenditure on PVE supported projects, including information on salary costs, publicity or other budgeted items. Instead, the review of the action plan has been used as a reason for providing no budgetary information at all. So where has the money gone?
So I’m no nearer to understanding how the council intends to "work closely with groups who are actively working to challenge violent extremism” – just like the £97,000 that Newham council received from the Migration Impact Fund, 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