Tuesday 19 July 2011

Update: Council Ignores Questions On Prevent Programme

As I reported in May, council officers who turned up to a community meeting to sing the praises of Newham’s 'Preventing Violent Extremism' (PVE) Programme faced some tough questions: at the time, I said that it felt like "the first time that their upbeat and rosy view of Prevent had been challenged at a local level”.

The Newham Community Cohesion Network, who arranged the discussion on PVE, was due to meet again this morning and had therefore asked a number of questions and points of clarification to pass on to its members today:

How much of an allocated £200,000 in 2010/11 for developing in-house capacity was spend on specific projects to improve resilience to extremism in Newham – and what were these projects and what was their intended outcome?

How was the allocated £67,425 in 2010/11 to “undertake a programme of communications and events to improve community cohesion throughout the borough” actually spent?

How many people within Newham’s Channel programme caseload are Muslim and how many are non-Muslim?

Whether the Office for Public Management final report 7740 “Research into best practice in Preventing Violent Extremism and understanding the causes of violent extremism”, written for the London Borough of Newham and dated October 2010, can be made publicly available so that the members of the Community Cohesion Network can read an external assessment of the delivery of the programme & its exceptional standard.

Whether a copy of the London Borough of Newham’s current strategy document for delivering the Prevent programme locally could be distributed in light of the recent review [by the Home Office].

Newham council officers claimed in May that its PVE Programme is ‘uniquely’ excellent, with none of the problems that have occurred in other parts of the country. However, that hasn't stopped the council from insultingly failing to respond to any of these perfectly reasonable questions – despite having almost two months to do so.

We've become so used to this kind of stonewalling locally that it's no longer a surprise. But how can a PVE Programme really be described as ‘uniquely' excellent when it so obviously lacks transparency and is shrouded in such intense secrecy?

Let's see whether a Freedom of Information request will help to reveal a little more.

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