Charity issues

JET: Did we need to spend £20,000 for another fly-tipping plan in Derby?

6x4a6508bFly-tipping in Normanton is a major nuisance, but it is not a complex problem – it needs one simple plan.

Solving it is the responsibility of Derby City Council’s Streetpride department, and Councillor Asaf Afzal, who is the accountable Cabinet Member – people who are paid out of the public purse. They are clearly not doing an effective job but fortunately the Normanton Empowerment Team (NET) are vocal and visible, and  campaigning on behalf of the residents of the area, by keeping it as a high profile issue . When NET met with the Leader of the Council, Ranjit Banwait, on 14 July 2014 they gave him a 10 point plan to help improve the situation – a plan they provided for free, no government funds – they just wanted to see change.

This seems not to have been sufficient for the Council, so iMPOWER was contracted in July 2014 for the princely sum of £410,000 to provide consultancy on many issues relating to improving the efficiency of Council services, one of which was around addressing the problem of fly-tipping in Normanton. They were engaged to work with the community and to look at best practice in other cities. According to the Derby Telegraph, this element cost £14,000.

“The people behind iMPOWER are a fast-growing team of innovators and change motivators, who use behavioural insight to transform public service delivery. We work with some of the largest and most innovative public services in the country, so this is an opportunity to create high impact, sustainable change”. (iMPOWER website)

If this wasn’t enough, JET on Normanton Road, felt that they also needed to climb onto the fly-tipping “band-wagon”. A charity, well-known, for processing “32,000 job seekers” a year, but little observable expertise in waste management or actually delivering community change projects. But this didn’t seem to concern Locality.

Locality, a charity based in London, were given the task of managing the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) funded “Our Place” programme.  Locality has been a funder of JET for the last few years under the Community Organisers (CO) programme. This uses Government money from the Office of Civil Society. JET is a host employer and is given £15,000 per CO by Locality.

In 2013/14 JET started the year with 3 CO’s. By November 2013, this was down to 1; for the year they received £53,802.

2014 accounts CO

Frpm JET’s 2013/14 accounts ( latest available set at time of publishing)

Certainly a successful year, financially, given the low salaries and running costs of the COs. There is little publicly available evidence of the value of all of the “door knocking” and hundreds of “listenings” that constitute this activity. No mention here of why the 2 people left JET, prematurely.

The general objective of the “Our Place” programme is described as:

“Our Place puts communities at the heart of service delivery in their area and involves local partners within a neighbourhood coming together with local people to identify the issues that matter most to them.

These Our Place partnerships develop plans to tackle these issues and have the potential to influence how local budgets are spent, redesigning and potentially commissioning, managing or delivering services locally – revolutionising the way their neighbourhood works.”

Locality confirmed to me that JET received a number of grants totalling £20,000 in the year to March 2015.

“Getting Ready” Grant £ 3,000
“Getting Going” Grant £10,000
“Going Further” Grant £ 7,000

The result of this effort and money was just a plan! If the Council wish to implement the plan, then the Council need to provide the additional money. Not much chance of that!

Common sense would have suggested that NET would have been central to this activity.

NET confirmed to me:

“NET are not aware of any work being carried out by JET in the Normanton community to address waste and recycling issues and are surprised to hear that JET are undertaking such works as they have not contacted NET in relation to the ongoing situation regarding litter and fly tipping and we have seen no improvement which can be attributed to them.”

Although NET were invited to a consultation led by iMPOWER at the JET offices, they stated that

“members felt that the meeting was a waste of their time as nothing constructive came from it.”

When I asked the Council about whether JET was “working with the consultants (iMPOWER), and whether they were a recognised agency for providing community opinion. Their spokesperson stated:

“JET has been used as a community venue for a number of engagement sessions and may continue to do so. Offering the opportunity to engage with community members and obtain their opinions.” (My emphasis)

It wasn’t clear whether JET provided the venue free-of-charge.

I asked the Council whether they were aware of the £20,000 plan, and whether they expect to use any of the proposals. Their oblique response was telling:

“As we continue to review services we will consider the proposals, as we would any proposals, to improve services to the community.”

That’s a political NO then?

When I asked if they had observed any positive outcomes from the JET exercise they commented

“DCLG will be in a better position to respond to this question, from their management of the programme”

I asked Locality, on behalf of the DCLG. They simply confirmed that they had funded the plan – no comment on any positive outcomes, despite the favouarble sentiment in this blog post written by a Locality project representative. They had clearly been informed that JET had decided to:

“take the lead in organising a partnership to look into the community’s concerns about all aspects of waste collection and disposal”.

The programme expected that a partnership would be built up  “from the voluntary, private and public sectors”. There is a question mark over the credibility of the link with the voluntary sector when they have not engaged with NET. The connection with StreetPride was described by the Council as “not a formal one” previously dismissing JET’s primary contribution as a “community venue”. Not the work of a leader!

It’s clear that, on the ground, Normanton has seen no value from the £20,000 – as only a plan has been produced.  The money represented a minor contribution to the annual £60,000 rental payable to the Chief Executive Officer, Sharief.

Is the JET plan materially different from the ideas that Derby City Council – StreetPride, iMPOWER, and NET have already proposed, or have they just re-cycled existing ideas? The plan is not in the public domain. There was no publicity over the project and its outcome, no tweets, no article in the Derby Telegraph, no opportunity to LIKE it on Facebook!

Perhaps JET would like to publish the “plan” on their website, open it to public scrutiny, explain how the £20,000 was spent, invite comment and be transparently accountable for the product of £20,000 of public money. Now that would be novel!

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