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#Offside—LBH: another disastrous decision brewing …

YESTERDAY my flowerpot was turned through 180°.

That was the covert signal that a drop had been made. I pedalled up to Woodside Park as fast as I could to the usual drop zone (near the Old Oak Tree* and under a certain oak leaf).

I found a USB drive with a fresh leek inside—please see the attached, anonymised file. 

It's about a genuinely foolish idea and I understand that this sales pitch has been sent to members of the Haringey Council Majority Group only. (these matters are of course, private).

It reads as a prospectus and there is no attempt at assessing risk. I understand it is likely to be a little controversial in Labour Group but naturally, that is never any guarantee that stupid ideas will not end up being rubber-stamped by the overweening Cabinet.

There is now mounting alarm that—in the dying days of the New-Labour Administration—an attempt will be made to rush through one, final, foolish, fatuous folly. It may look attractive in the short-term, but the scheme's finances are such that it could come back and hit the Council finances in the medium term. (When Council finances hurt badly enough: they hurt your finances!). There are other risks too. Below.

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Ceri Williams of The Friends of Chestnuts Park was first to raise the alarm: LINK

Ceri led the public meeting last summer that saw off the impetutus to impose the idiocy on Chestnuts Park. It would have cost the Council £3m and involved the demolition of a perfectly good community centre (!?).

That public meeting was 30-strong and was attended by Cllr Bob Hare and I. And the promoter, Cabinet Member Eugene Ayisi.

Ceri has recently posted a few pertinent questions about this renewed proposal, threatening another park, Woodside. I reproduce her questions:

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I've updated the 17 questions which went unanswered in 2017, to take account of this new Woodside proposal, see below:

17  Updated Questions in February 2018 which need to be answered by LBH before one can fully judge the wisdom of the OnSide giveaway

  1. Why has there been no procurement process?  Other than the promise of additional money for it, what was the decider for going for this OnSide model, when it doesn’t seem to have been researched or commissioned locally? 
  2. Is the governance profile of OnSide one which LBH Cabinet admires and considers suitable for this borough? http://www.onsideyouthzones.org/about-us/our-board/
  3. Why the need to actually give away public land if OnSide doesn’t want to use it to raise collateral/loans? 
  4. When did the Commission/Working Party’s meet if it did? What was its remit and where is its report?
  5. How come the Cabinet are planning for the firm decision to go ahead on 6 March prior to the Working party even convening?
  6. Given this is such a controversial decision, how can the outgoing Cabinet contemplate forcing it through given the elections in May? Surely the decision should be paused, as with the HDV.
  7. If the Working Party, after its research, decides that that local and outreach youth provision is needed as much as, if not more than, a new flagship centre, will OnSide still be the appointed provider, in spite of all its track record being in single flagship centres?  (Tweaking OnSide’s usual model to include some additional local delivery, and outreach and/or using additional donated money to fund and/or run Bruce Grove Youth Centre, might seem attractive. But if that is the model desired, then the partnership with OnSide becomes less logical and surely should be procured and commissioned in the usual manner)
  8. What will be the knock-on effect on other facilities, e.g. the GLA-supported new climbing wall at Ashley Rd, and other sports centres when separate facilities are established, possibly with greater subsidy than existing ones? 
  9. What happens after 3 years, when the initial commitment from donors dries up? (Other Youth Zones are having to consider commercial hires to keep going at this point.)
  10. Who  - even for a moment - thought that it was appropriate to give away and build on even one sq metre of Metropolitan Open Land? If a Metropolitan Open Land (MOL)  landswap is under consideration, it needs to be discussed and evaluated in detail by the Parks Service and Friends of Parks Forum
  11. The Cabinet minutes in 2015 stated “Where land identified is open space the Council must before disposing of the land cause notice of its intention to do so, specifying the land in question, to be advertised in two consecutive weeks in a newspaper circulating in the area in which the land is situated, and consider any objections to the proposed disposal which may be made to it”. Does this seem an adequate form of warning about such a breach of the council’s own public green space policy?
  12. How on earth can it be defended to fund such a flagship cross borough Centre to be based in one school? Youth provision has to be provided in venues independent of and separate from particular schools. Also, when resources are placed in schools like this, eg the SRB money creating the West Green Learning Centre at Parkview Academy, it reverts to school only property within only a few years.
  13. Why is this charity, OnSide, being treated so much more favourably than any other charity from the borough or elsewhere? (Others can raise matched funding, donations etc, but are rightly obliged to offer services as per LBH requirements in return for LBH funding. They also have to pay rent on premises. The entire delivery of a borough service, in this case youth services, is not usually given to an outside organisation to deliver independently, as they see fit, for ever, rent free, however much match funding is promised by them). 
  14. The new facility would presumably be run by a local Board of independent OnSide trustees. The inaugural chair apparently still is City Alderman Alastair King https://queenhithe.com/interests/   Given that trustees’ fiduciary duty within Charity Law is to only look after the aims of their own charity, why did the Cabinet minutes refer to the Council having representation on the new Board?  (According to Charity law, Trustees cannot “represent” any outside body. Other youth zone boards operate independently from local political accountability). This lack of local accountability would be compounded by the Academy Status of Woodside which was given the lease of Haringey’s public land for 125 yrs in 2011.
  15. If LBH has £3m capital to put in as match, and £250k pa revenue, where is the evaluation of the alternative options for this investment, including for example investing in Pendarren outdoor activity centre in Wales, Bruce Grove Youth Centre and local youth centres etc? These need to be based on real evidence, not on fanciful attendance projections such as those seen so far. The recent Haringey Labour Party Manifesto Conference committed unanimously to an entirely different kind of Youth Service provision. 
  16. Who will be valuing the land given away? (The cabinet minutes refer to regulations whereby the land can be undervalued by up to £2m but still given away if an argument is made that it is of social value).
  17. What conversations have taken place so far between OnSide, Woodside and LBH  - when, where and who was involved, before this decision came to Cabinet? Given the recent interest in revelations about potentially improper informal lunches etc with lobbyists by senior staff and councillors, this information should be in the public domain.

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* sometimes sports a yellow ribbon round it

Tags: Ceri Williams, Chestnuts Park, Eugene Ayisi, On-side, Onside, Rebecca Baron, Woodside Park, Woodside Ward, Youth Zone, stupidity

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I understand that “FAQs – Haringey Youth Zone”—the document attached above—was drafted or written by a Rebecca Baron. As can be seen, at the top of each page of the FAQs is the imprimatur of the Local Authority (the Haringey Logo), but I'm not aware that there is a Ms. Baron at Haringey Council. However, there is a Rebecca Baron at Onside Youth Zone and I wonder if it might be the same person?

Thanks for tracking this down, Clive, Ms Baron appears on Onsite's website as the "Head of Marketing & Communications".  Her job is said to include: "... to support the future requirements of future youth zones". Which of course is entirely legitimate for a member of the senior staff at Onside

But the question arises of how appropriate it is for someone working for Onside - a potential future contractor with Haringey Council to write - or perhaps be involved in the writing - of a document intended to provide professional information to Haringey councillors. At least on the PDF you attached, Clive, the Haringey Logo would suggest it comes from one of the Council's own professional staff - not a third party contractor.

But reading it aware that the author - or co-author - is an employee of a proposed contractor gives the whole document a different perspective.

Take, for example, the final paragraph.
"This is a decision that should have been made long ago, but is being brought back to Labour Group for the
final decision at the Labour Group’s request." Now I can see why an outsider might have such a view. C'mon guys this is supposed to happen in 2020!

But equally I can see why someone sitting in Bolton might be unaware - or perhaps not understand - that this proposal is for a completely different piece of land in a different part of Haringey. This time not land-grabbing a large chunk of Chestnuts Park, but on Metropolitan Open Land.

I can also imagine why a report written by someone in Bolton would not mention or perhaps be unaware of the  strong public opposition to the previous proposal, and why this was so.

Perhaps too, they might be unaware how a London borough makes decisions and it should be the Council not the majority political group which decides on handing out freebies of land and cash like this. Nor might they be aware of the arguments within Haringey politics which mean that, whoever is making decisions after 3 May, it is highly unlikely to be the Kober regime which has been meeting with Onside.

There is a further fundamental issue which the report's author appears not to have considered.

Let us take the Onside model at its self-evaluation. For the sake of argument, let's accept that it is indeed a very successful and positive model which would be highly beneficial to young people in Haringey.

Imagine further that you were Onside and want to work openly and amicably with Haringey Council in the future. Isn't the last thing you want a scheme which has been driven through in the dying days of the Kober Regime? Pushed through on a technicality and the pretence that it was agreed last year - even though this is clearly a new scheme on a new site with a different legal set-up. Whipped through the Labour Group using the last scrapings of the Dear Leader's waning power.

It's a scheme with so many loose ends, and unanswered questions, and lacking even a proper evaluation, that the new Council - whatever it's composition - will face yet another Kober mess to clear up. Not a good start on which to base an open co-operative relationship.

Thanks for uncovering this. I've added this information on a new post on my HOL thread http://www.harringayonline.com/forum/topics/resurrection-of-discred...

For an official document encouraging councillors to agree to give large amounts of money to a charity, to be actually written by the charity to which the money is to go, is pretty steep!

I'm going to encourage all vol orgs submitting funding bids to LBH to insist that their arguments for being funded should be circulated to all councillors under the Haringey letter heading and purporting to have the support of the council leadership. it's only fair! 

Here's a post I've just put on HOL

"STOP PRESS - General Exception Meeting Monday 19 March 11am to rush through agreement of this project. 

Because the Labour councillors seem to have voted by a majority of 24/17 to approve this project, it's still in the running, even though both Constituency Labour Parties voted the following night overwhelmingly to oppose the project and to campaign against it. (Out of the 24 councillors voting for it, I think only 4 are actually standing for reelection in May, so it's clear it's not a popular project with any of the incoming councillors - whoever is elected,  as the LibDem opposition councillors also oppose I believe). 

However, elements of the project require further Cabinet decision (I think the choice of location and loss/swap of Metropolitan Open Land (MOL). But because there are now no Cabinet meetings before the 3 May election, the leadership have yesterday issued a General Exception Notice https://www.minutes.haringey.gov.uk/mgIssueHistoryHome.aspx?IId=622... which would allow the contract with OnSide to be signed in public at 11am on Mon 19 March. 

The reasons given for the urgency apparently include the claim that OnSide would walk away if they had to wait a few weeks. Given that they've been courting Haringey Council for up to five years, this is odd! 

The agenda and set of papers behind this exceptional decision meeting have just been put on the Council's website https://www.minutes.haringey.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?MId=8641

In particular the following document gives the map of the proposed MOL swap, which I believe has to be approved by the GLA before it can get planning permission.  https://www.minutes.haringey.gov.uk/documents/s100490/18%2003%2009%...

When I know more about what a General Exception Notice involves I'll post again here. The public are allowed to attend, and councillors are allowed to speak. I believe that, as with Cabinet Decisions, a group of councillors are able to "call in" this decision to ensure proper process and further scrutiny. 

Thanks for posting this, Clive.

I haven't been keeping up with this latest attempt by the Dear Leader to make dubious decisions from her Departure Lounge. But it doesn't surprise me.  Arrogant and autocratic behaviour has become her trademark. We are now seeing even more reasons why she should neither lead a council nor in future be elected to any public office.

We are days away from the so-called "purdah period" when local Councils are not supposed to push through contentious and potentially risky decisions and policies - potentially landing the next adminstration with an administrative and financial mess. Elections follow shortly after on 3 May.

In many aspects the election campaign has already begun as Parties finalise their choice of candidates and their manifestos. Some adopted candidates and Party volunteers are out door-knocking.

At the same time, nobody from any party should be so complacent or arrogant as to assume how the electorate will vote and therefore make assumptions about the balance of party political power in the next Council.

For the sake of argument, let's hypothesise that the Onside bid for their "Youth Zone" service contract gets the 'thumbs-up' following thorough evaluation and detailed scrutiny by the next Council administration. (Though it may or may not be progressed if the terms are not acceptable to Onside.)

Let's make the further assumption that Cllr Kober is forcing through this decision because she is personally convinced of the soundness and desirability of the Onside bid. In which case it would be open to her to give her views and the supporting evidence to the new Council's evaluation and scrutiny process. Former Prime Ministers intervene in policy decisions in just such ways. So could a former Council Leader.

But that should all be a matter for the future. Evaluation is not currently available. Scrutiny has not happened. Even the most basic step - wide consultation with young people - has not been carried out. On the contrary the Onside bid has so many question marks hanging over it that rushing through a last minute decision seems foolhardy and possibly reckless and irresponsible.

It is also contemptuous of the democratic process. Because Cllr Kober is seeking to bind the next Council which she will neither lead nor be a member of. Bind them to a decision which the new Council should be free to make - for or against - on behalf of Haringey residents.

It appears that power has gone to Claire Kober's head. Her departure is well overdue.

Here's an update I just also posted on HOL:

http://www.harringayonline.com/forum/topics/resurrection-of-discred...

"The General Exception Notice meeting for the Leader to sign the decision to give the money to Onside will be held in public at 11am on 19 March at the Civic Centre. We are putting together a Deputation to that meeting. If you would like to sign the Deputation Requisition, and/or to join the Deputation at the meeting, please let me know asap on ceri.williams@blueyonder.co.uk. One member of a Deputation can speak, and other members of the Deputation are allowed to answer questions. Councillors are allowed to ask questions. Now the papers about the proposal have at last been published (see links in my previous post) we have finally seen the area of land which is proposed as a swap for the Metropolitan Open Land (MOL) which they plan to build on, and it does not appear to be a reasonable swap. If you would like to know more, get in touch with me. At the very least, we believe that local people and the GLA need more time to examine the details of the MOL swap."

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