Waltham Forest’s Safer Neighbourhoods Board and MOPAC funding: a scandal in the making

Previous posts have dealt in depth with the travails of the Waltham Forest Safer Neighbourhoods Board (WFSNB) – its inability to hold regular meetings, the incompleteness of its minutes, and the fact that it publicly named constituent members without asking their permission, or (bizarrely) even informing them that they had been signed up to serve.

Now it emerges that there are major concerns about the way that the WFSNB has handled funding from the Mayor’s Officer for Policing and Crime (MOPAC).

The story is as follows.

Over the FYs 2015-16 and 2016-17, the WFSNB has (by its own lights) devoted a lot of time and energy to commissioning eight projects from third parties, using £78,000 of funding from MOPAC, with the aim in each case of boosting the fight against crime in the borough.

This in itself is unexceptionable.

The fly in the ointment, however, is that nobody seems to know what this heavy investment of public money has actually produced in terms of outputs and outcomes.

As part of its funding agreement, MOPAC requires the WFSNB to submit reports every six months summarising how individual projects are evolving.

For its part, the WFSNB has consistently emphasised to MOPAC that it is intent on carrying out the required monitoring, for example inserting the following paragraph into all of the 2015-16 project specifications:

Screen Shot 2017-09-13 at 11.31.21

Yet when asked recently under the Freedom of Information Act about what the WFSNB has achieved with its money, MOPAC struggles to answer.

It has produced the (albeit rather sketchy) half yearly report for the six months to November 2015, but as to the final report for 2015-16, due in March 2016, the second half yearly report due in November 2016, and the final report for 2016-17, due in June 2017, MOPAC comments only that these have not been received, adding rather tartly ‘No further project funds will be released until satisfactory returns are submitted’.

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.

The WFSNB half yearly report of November 2015 admits that ‘interim monitoring templates’ had yet to be issued to those receiving funding, and this on its own should have set warning lights flashing.

But when the WFSNB then failed to forward a final report for 2015-16, MOPAC should have straightaway intervened – instead of which, of course, it just carried on funding.

The whole episode smacks of amateur hour, with all of the parties involved apparently most interested in showing the world that they were doing something, anything, with the hope of gaining kudos, rather than worrying about the important detail.

This is a familiar Waltham Forest story, of course, but it is very depressing indeed to discover that City Hall, too, suffers from a similar syndrom.

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