Community grants criticised for alleged unfairness

Community-funded grants awarded by Mayor challenged by the Tower Hamlets Scrutiny Committee. Pic: Reading Tom

Community-funded grants awarded by Mayor challenged by the Tower Hamlets Scrutiny Committee. Pic: Reading Tom

Grants to local cultural and educational projects awarded by the Mayor of Tower Hamlets the borough’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee after accusations of inconsistency in allocation.

Councillor Peter Golds, Conservative member for Blackwall and Cubitt Town said at Tuesday’s meeting, that funding discrepancies between wards amounted to as much as £600,000 and questioned why some applications had been rejected while others had been successful.

Launched in October 2012, the Community Chest and Community Events grants are intended to support one-off events that have cultural, artistic, social or educational merit and are of benefit to the local community.

Golds claimed that Millwall Ward, the most highly populated ward in London, has received just £67,750 since the funds began, whereas Whitechapel – with a population of only 14,000 – received £1.3 million.

He also questioned specific applications, including grants made to local private media organisations newspaper Bangla Mirror, £4,500, and Bangla TV, £4,000, while a grant to the Citizen’s Advice Bureau for a series of events about welfare reform was refused.

The mayoral report on the allocations stated that: “The funding decisions are not of such import to result in substantial public interest”. However, Golds said: “I believe that the taxpayers of this borough have the right to know.”

Councillor Alibor Choudhury, Independent member for Shadwell and Cabinet Member for Resources, dismissed Golds’ objections as “Tory propaganda” and stated that decisions were properly made in accordance with qualification criteria.

Overview and Scrutiny Committee chair and Labour member for Mile End East, Councillor Motin Uz-Zaman, referred the funding allocations for reconsideration by the Mayor, commenting on the “lack of transparency in terms of the criteria that were used,” and saying that in future “such decisions should be done in public”. He added that “across the borough [there should be] a fair distribution.”

The current grant applications in question, which amount to £53,000 of public spending, have been temporarily withheld while the decision is reconsidered.

Both funds are currently operating under “limited and diminishing resources”, with just £145,595 remaining out of the original £588,100 budget for 2012-14. The Community Chest fund is under review to consider its effectiveness and efficiency.

Mayor Lutfur Rahman was unable to attend the meeting on Tuesday to answer questions in person.

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