Congratulations are in order to the Waltham Forest Guardian, which has scooped the rest of the press. They have been investigating the activities of people in Leyton who have been cleverly extracting public funds from the local council under the pretext of fighting terrorism.
The Guardian is tonight reporting on documentary evidence they have obtained which show that the Leytonstone Muslim Community Centre (LMCC) used 'thousands of pounds' of taxpayers' cash earmarked for tackling extremism on food, including £75 for ice-cream.
The money was claimed as expenses and paid by Waltham Forest Council as part of a £150,000 fund given to the LMCC and the Active Change Foundation (ACF) to run a 'Young Muslim Leaders' programme. We have discussed some of this nonsense before at the Archipelago, where under the snappy but expensive buzz-word 'Prevent' the council tried to recruit child spies as young as 11 as a bulwark against Al-Queda in the War on Terror.
The undemocratic scheme reported on was designed to train 30 hand-picked young Muslims as 'anti-extremism role models'. Much hooplah was made when the scheme was set up of the involvement of our hubristic former Borough Commander in honing the shock-troops of democracy by elitist means. It appears that spending their time in such company soon caused half of the participants to get bored of the whole thing, but that didn't stop a lot of public cash being scoffed through in the process. As well as the £75 for "ice cream", there was a bill for £1,024 for catering and entertainment for the 30 'role models' at an "Eid event" at the Ivory Mansion banqueting suite (Motto: "Please contact us to discover how Ivory Mansion can be icing on the cake for your special event") in Leytonstone High Road.
The LMCC is established as a charity with the aim of 'relieving poverty' and prompting equality and religious tolerance. An evaluation of the LMCC's so-called anti-extremism work revealed that while it had held three 'community days', “no reference was made to extremism at these events”. Among other wastes of time and public money claimed to be part of the 'War on Terror' in Waltham Forest, only 30% of the school visits which were supposed to be part of the programme taxpayers were billed for took place.
Of course, not only the local government's budget was being plundered (yet again) for these pointless shindigs (Clyde Loakes got in on the act to use the scheme as an excuse for a chow-down, officially called a "celebration" at the Town hall). The ACF leaders also went to a 'special day and dinner' at the Ministry of Defence's Shrivenham Defence Academy in Wiltshire at public expense, visited the House of Lords, and even met representatives of the US State Department and NATO (though what was eaten and how much it cost is presumably still classified).
The paper does say that “several seminars” were held (presumably organised by some of our more dim-witted but politically ambitious civil servants in the Home Office who needed an uncritical crowd to strut in front of as part of their 'Contest' posturing under the last government), where extremist ideology was “discussed and discredited”, whatever that means.
hat-tip to Mindpie
[Update 24 July 2010:
I am indebted, as ever, to a contributor to the comments section at the WFG, md-j, who has drawn our attention to Private Eye's take on this matter:
'The Active Change Foundation received its money despite a Council vetting document having warned it was a 'maximum risk' company, with a 'noticeably worsening payment pattern'. On its application for funding the ACF stated it had 'close links' to the council, due to its association with the Lea Bridge Rd Mosque. That was undoubtedly true, given that 12 of Waltham Forest's councillors worship there'.]
[Update 27 July 2010: It has been kindly pointed out to me by a reader that a re-write of the WFG's article linked above now includes the information that 'in its original applications to the council for funding, the Leytonstone Muslim Community Centre stated it had close links to former council leader, and current cabinet member, Clyde Loakes'.]