Thursday, 22 December 2011

The Return of 'Building Resilience'

As regular visitors to this blog will know, I have tried - without success - to find out how Newham council has spent its huge 'Preventing Violent Extremism' funding (see here, here and here). Trying to understand the notoriously opaque internal workings of the council is like the employing the guesswork of a 1970s Kreminologist - but occasionally it's possible to stumble upon a nugget of information. For instance, earlier this week I found out quite by accident that a consultancy firm called The Campaign Company is paid by the borough for "a project using values-based segmentation to understand why young Muslims radicalise as part of the PREVENT programme".

It's the kind of detail that the council has refused to share, even though it can be found with a little digging on the consultants' website. However, the real reason I Googled them had nothing to do with Newham's shadowy 'Prevent' work, but a new contract that the Campaign Company has been given to undertake something called "Newham Resilience Research".

Those who remember the launch of the council's 'Building Resilience' project back in May are aware that it is another slice of New Labour authoritarianism that is essentially about blaming people for their poverty and providing a dubious ideological justification for local cuts. We haven't much more about since, but now the Campaign Company has contacted some local groups saying:

Council has commissioned research from The Campaign Company and the Royal Society of Arts to find more about the strength of communities and how they may be affected by the cuts in Newham. We want to understand more about the connections people have to both the individuals and organisations in their local area, in order to build stronger communities in which everyone can play their part.

The Campaign Company is currently surveying the residents of Newham and to tie in with this, we would also like to get in touch with all community and faith groups affiliated with Newham. As organisations within Newham, you all play an integral role in community cohesion and resilience, and your thoughts and perspectives would therefore be very valuable for our work. We would really appreciate it if a representative or leader from your organisation or group could take some time to speak with us over the next week. Our interview should take no longer than 15 to 20 minutes.

It all sounds terribly reassuring, but strangely enough, I didn't receive this e-mail directly. In fact, no-one working for the borough's various second-tier organisations, who have long-established relationships with the voluntary, community and faith sectors in Newham and a wealth of information about local communities and their diverse needs, appears to have been contacted either. I'm sure this is wasn't deliberate (cough) so why, I wonder, does Newham keep shelling out money on consultancies who have no idea that independent charitable groups in the borough have their own established networks and structures?

Instead I found out about the research from a friend who is part of a local campaign group (one fiercely critical of the council) and who sent the e-mail with the words, "this looks unbelievably dodgy". I can see why she is so suspicious. One reason the council could be looking to map connections between individuals and organisations is because its 'Building Resilience' plans, if they ever get further than the drawing board, involve a staged withdrawal from the provision of more and more council services, apart from core support for the most vulnerable, leaving the majority of residents dependent on voluntary groups, informal networks and friends. 'Resilience' looks a lot like a rebranding of the government's massively discredited 'Big Society' proposals.

Being Newham, of course, it's all rather chaotic and poorly executed. The Campaign Company say they are 'carefully' targeting only 60 groups but have been relying on a list of organisation contacts provided by the council in which 75% of the e-mail addresses are wrong. Furthermore, on the evidence of a brief conversation with them, they don't appear to have much of an idea of the geography of their target wards or who are the useful contacts within them. Sadly, I can't imagine the results of the research will adequately reflect Newham's voluntary, community and faith sectors in any meaningful way.

Why, I'm left wondering for the umpteenth time, does Newham council keep shelling out money on consultants with so little actual knowledge of the borough?


StopCityAirport said...

As usual the contracts in Newham are not about the people of Newham but funding Labour Party people. It's why no-one rocks the boat. It's the Labour Party pinata.

Co-founder and Director
The Campaign Company
Privately Held; 11-50 employees; Public Relations and Communications industry
October 2001 – Present (10 years 3 months) Croydon

Assistant General Secretary
The Labour Party
Nonprofit; 201-500 employees; Political Organization industry
February 1987 – October 2001 (14 years 9 months)

Regional Director
The Labour Party
Nonprofit; 201-500 employees; Political Organization industry
1995 – 1999 (4 years)

Assistant Regional Organiser
1989 – 1994 (5 years)

Trade Union Liaison Officer
Croydon TUC
September 1983 – July 1986 (2 years 11 months)

Liaison with trade unions. Public education about trade unions

StopCityAirport said...

(Thats David Evans work history)

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