Fighting patronage politics – Uniting the East End

There has been a lot of concern about the Independent Mayor’s mainstream grant proposals.  This is the money that is handed out every three years to local voluntary sector organisations to deliver important services for local people.  Most organisations are relatively small and serve a population within walking distance. 

There has always been a slant towards the west of the borough in the allocation of this and other resources.  Many great longstanding organisations are based around Aldgate and Brick Lane, and funding is geographically skewed towards them, although their reach is broader and others benefit from their expertise.  This time is different. 

Tower Hamlets is divided into 8 Local Area Partnership areas, made up of two or three wards each.  Funding and services are planned around these areas. 

LAP 6, made up of Bromley by Bow and Mile End East wards, is the most deprived LAP area.  East India ward next door is the most deprived ward in London – the riverside properties in Limehouse alter the overall picture for LAP 7, but the area is similar to LAP 6 – mostly high density post war social housing with some small terraces, high unemployment, poor health.  One of the reasons for the long term underfunding is the lack of infrastructure for organisations to work from and be funded – in Mile End East two small community centres on St Paul’s Way are now being supplanted by a great new centre as a part of the Leopold estate redevelopment, and East End Homes is building new facilities too, but three and a half years ago, when this funding was last awarded, although there were relatively few applicants, those that did apply were treated relatively fairly.  Not this time. 

LAP 6 is the poorest LAP area.  According to new analysis I have recently been given it is also the LAP area currently proposed to receive the least mainstream grant funding.  LAP 6 is currently proposed to receive 3% of the total.  By contrast the highest amount awarded to any single LAP area is 20% of the total to LAP 2. 

It has been suggested that cronyism, patronage, call it what you will, is at the root of this.  A few facts. 

Many long standing service providers with a great record of serving diverse local communities have had their grants cut. 

Many new organisations, some only founded very recently, have received significant amounts of money. 

Most of these new organisations are sited in a very few geographical areas. 

The distribution of funding does not reflect need.   Mile End East, Bromley by Bow, East India and Lansbury have the greatest number of households in Tower Hamlets who will be seriously affected by government cuts to benefits coming in in April 2013.  Currently that same area will see our welfare advice service funding cut by 75%, the biggest cut in the borough.  This is not because the Independent Mayor has less money available for the mainstream grants.  It is because he is choosing to allocate it elsewhere. 

Activities for children and young people locally are also set for the chop. 

There has been such a strong reaction to this that the Mayor has delayed making his final decision on the funding allocation.  He is likely to publish his final proposals soon. 

I think that this is worth organising against.   I’ve been talking to local people and getting petitions signed for a few weeks now, but we need to scale things up.  Contact me if you agree and can help.  The east and south of our borough are as full of talent, hope and rich potential as anywhere else on earth.  Patronage politics is designed to divide and weaken us.  Let’s fight to unite the east end. 

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