Waltham Forest’s Safer Neighbourhoods Board and MOPAC funding: the scandal continues

A post of September past (see link below) reported that, though in FYs 2015-16 and 2016-17 the Waltham Forest Safer Neighbourhood Board (WFSNB) had been allotted £78,000 of Mayor’s Officer for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) funding, and promised to rigorously track how this was spent, it had so far failed to submit anywhere near the required number of monitoring reports.

Now it has just emerged that nearly five months down the line, this regrettable situation persists, with MOPAC admitting that the WFSNB’s end of year monitoring forms for 2015-16, plus the mid-year and end of year monitoring forms for 2016-17, are all still outstanding.

To put it bluntly, this is quite disgraceful. It is unsurprising, given what is already known, that the WFSNB has proved unequal to the tasks before it. But MOPAC is there in part to safeguard public funds, and clearly in this case has taken its eye off the ball. It may reiterate that no further monies will be released to the WFSNB ‘until the outstanding forms have been submitted’, but in the circumstances that provides scant reassurance. The unsavoury fact is that one public body has generously financed another, and as of today no-one knows the outcome.

Turning to to the WFSNB itself, the impression of amateur hour continues. Thus, the minutes of a meeting on 27 November 2017 include the following:

‘Councillor Douglas referred to the 3rd paragraph of item 8 (Chair’s Report – SNB Review) which stated the following: “The Chair went on to say that support from Councillors had been lacking…” Councillor Douglas stated that he had offered support and assistance and that the offer was turned down by the Chair. He confirmed that the offer of support was recorded in an email which he could provide to the Chair if required’.

‘The Chair referred to some of the crime statistics within the borough as published by the Mayor’s Office and expressed concerns that statistics, such as racist and religious hate crime, had increased and were significantly higher than neighbouring boroughs. Mr Clements stated that some of the statistics which the Chair was quoting were not accurate…He stated that there were actually fewer incidents of hate crime in Waltham Forest than neighbouring boroughs’.

‘Mr Dundon [WFSNB Vice-Chair] suggested that “Membership and Recruitment” be added to the next SNB agenda where they could agree a system for recruitment to the Board. The Chair stated that it would not be a good use of the SNB’s time and suggested the subject was discussed outside the meeting at a later date’.

It is perhaps unsurprising that, shortly afterwards, the WFSNB Chair resigned, leaving his hapless deputy to carry the can.

Currently, the future of the WFSNB hangs in the balance. Various local activists want to open up the membership and create a vibrant tool for tackling crime. Stung into action by past failure, Labour councillors have suddenly come over all democratic, worrying that ‘the positions on the SNB are not advertised’, and warning against ‘self-selecting from a small group’. MOPAC hovers nervously, aware of the public relations own goal that threatens. Yet the old guard, though thoroughly discredited, hang on; there are rumours of secretive meetings to discuss how to move forward;  and the idea is even mooted that, far from opening up to the public, membership of WFSNB will once again be decided by some kind of vetting process – with the very figures who have so spectacularly already failed again calling the shots.

What a mess.

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