Council grant decisions “being made in secret” claim

Tower Hamlets Council House Pic: Tom Reading

A local volunteer group has expressed concerns that grant decisions in Tower Hamlets are being made in secret, in an letter to the council.

The letter, sent by Kirsty Cornell, Chief Executive of Tower Hamlets Council for Voluntary Service (THCVS), said that members were ‘concerned’ that decisions for grants were not being discussed ‘in public’.

“We are concerned that by not making these decisions in public, the Commissioners are denying applicants to the emergency fund, potential applicants and other interested parties a full understanding of the Commissioners’ rationale for the awarding of emergency fund grants,” wrote Cornell in her letter addressed to Council Commissioner, Sir Ken Knight.

“The emergency fund is a very valuable resource to organisations in Tower Hamlets,” she added.

Local organisations had originally been invited to submit proposals for spending the emergency fund money on local community projects in September, including engaging with youth services and developing provisions for the elderly.

Tower Hamlets Commissioner Max Caller addressed the public who attended the council meeting, to quell concerns.

“As you know we always try to make as many decisions as we can in public.” he said.

“There are clear criteria and application guidelines for the emergency funds on the council’s website. Since we meet only every six weeks, we have taken the view that if there is an application, and it is an emergency, then we should not wait six weeks for an application to be considered, because if the matter is…of urgency then by definition organisations want to know where they are.”

“But if it comes in time to be done in public, we will always take the decisions in public.” he added.

However, Cornell claimed that the public remained ‘unclear’ on the awards process and demanded that rejected applications be given a full explanation as to why their project was denied sponsorship.

“In order for organisations in the borough to better understand whether their applications are likely to be successful, it is important that there are clear criteria for the fund and clear rationale for how decisions will be made.”

Successful applications to the scheme included the Shadwell Basin Outdoor Activity project, which aims to encourage newcomers and school students to try sessions in canoeing, sailing and climbing, and the Positive Activities for Young People programme, which aims to increase youth volunteering in the area during school holidays.

By Alex Jackson

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