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Harringay, Haringey - So Good they Spelt it Twice!

Resurrection of discredited Onside Youth Zone proposal, to be decided very soon! Urgent action needed now

This post needs to be seen as a continuation of my original thread about Onside and Chestnuts Park, posted in April 2017 http://www.harringayonline.com/forum/topics/17-questions-about-hari....

I have heard via Twitter and minutes of the November 17 Children and Young People Scrutiny Panel https://www.minutes.haringey.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=756&am... that the Haringey Cabinet as one of its last acts before the May election is planning to decide to dish out money to Onside! Apparently this will involve £3m cash plus annual revenue to Onside to build a YouthZone in the grounds of Woodside School! After all the exposure to the myriad faults of the Onside model listed on this thread above, it seems unbelievable that this is happening. 

It will involve Metropolitan Open Land.

There has been no competitive tendering of the project.

The Board of Onside remains the same as it was when first exposed in this thread, 9 white men, 1 white woman. http://www.onsideyouthzones.org/about-us/our-board/

The 17 questions I originally posted on this thread about Onside still pertain more or less without change. Because they were never answered, and indeed were unanswerable, the Onside proposal for Chestnuts Park or anywhere in the borough was kicked into the long grass. But it seems to have been dug up again, for a final throw in the very last days of this Council regime. What is going on?  A small Labour member only Working Party was set up for the Chestnuts Onside Proposal but the proposal fizzled out before it could meet. 

The recent Haringey Labour Party manifesto conference voted to include a commitment to fund local youth services - not a massive investment in just one centre, on one site. 

Onside nationally have long wanted to get into a school. But till now no local authority could be found foolish enough to believe that any youth centre for a whole borough or town can be located in one secondary school. Everyone knows that just won't work, as shown by all evidence. 

If anyone else knows more about this latest resurrection, please let me know here or by email! I might update the 17 questions to apply to this Woodside proposal.

It doesn't seem right to me that this scarce resource of £3m should be given to Onside. Given the current Cabinet won't be in power after May, any decision about this must at least be paused, as with the doomed HDV. Because the Council decision is imminent, we need to make sure that all councillors are fully briefed asap. 

All advice welcome.

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I've update 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.

 

Wasn’t there also a question previously about the fact that onside have never done this within London before. That there is likely to be an issue with young people travelling to other parts of the borough to access sports facilities. Something to do with postcode areas and territorialism if I recall rightly. Haringey were looking to pour all of their money for young people’s sports facilities into this one centre, as opposed to spreading provision throughout the borough. 

I may have misremembered. 

Yes, this is still a concern

Not just using the public land, Billy. Private organisations already use such space, eg my year 6 son has been going to football sessions at Park View, run by an external organisation, on Wednesday nights, for years.

The proposal when we discussed it in Scrutiny (I'm one of two parent governor reps there) and at a meeting in my local park, Chestnuts Park, where our community centre was threatened with demolition, was that Onside would get a 125 year lease of a chunk of land and all the remaining council funding for youth services, and that they were only committed to providing a youth service along council service lines for 3 years, and then they would be free to pursue "commercialisation".

I'm not a fan of privatisation, but even people rather more right wing than me can't think that this is a responsible use of Council assets.

hi Billy,

Sorry if you feel my post lacks evidence. But do you mean my original long post and follow ups from 2017  http://www.harringayonline.com/forum/topics/17-questions-about-hari.... or today's updates? My two posts today don't attempt to again go through all the evidence we uncovered in 2017 - just haven't had the chance to do that. 

Do have a look at the original thread if you're interested in this topic. I agree and acknowledge that my posts are full of personal opinion, but I feel that we unearthed plenty of evidence as well. If you don't feel that, then let's agree to differ! And of course if you have any particular questions, I'll be happy to try and answer. 

hi Billy, the council minutes I linked to today constitute the only document in the public arena I have found which refers to the revival of the Onside project in Haringey. It's mainly via tweets that we learned about it. 

The longer arguments, facts and information about the Onside model are in the original 2017 thread   http://www.harringayonline.com/forum/topics/17-questions-about-hari....

Do have another run round Chestnuts. In the past 1.5 years we've created a willow garden and orchard in the area on the North East side which used to be the main unused area. But I agree the park could always do with more investment and it also struggles with reduced maintenance and staffing. We're probably going to be fundraising for redoing the derelict basketball pitch, renewing the drainage of the main field and installing a drinking fountain etc etc. However, as public green space is so precious, most agreed Council and GLA strategies, and all Friends groups, oppose building over it, hence our opposition to the Onside proposals last year. 

I agree it's better that things get done rather than get tied up in machinations of the local labour party! Just that I don't think this particular plan at Woodside is a good thing. But happy to agree to differ! 

It's not "letting others use public land" - it's giving away public land in return for a very short term service commitment.

I'm sure I've seen a figure about the amount of cuts there have been to the council's youth services since 2010... they totalled about £3 million, didn't they?

However, onside are going to take the young people of Tottenham skiing don't you know!

Thanks Ceri for posting this. Along with several colleagues, I am very worried about this proposal . It has emerged in the last few weeks of this administration. There has been no time for us to scrutinise it properly, Given that the one-size fits all Onside model requires a commitment of some £3.5m council capital , and an annual revenue commitment of £250k for at least 3 years, scrutinsing it thoroughly wold seem right and responsible. It is, after all, taxpayers' money. Asking young people what they want and how they access services should also be part of any decision making  process. 

The 17 points Ceri posted when Chestnuts Park was proposed for this model are still valid and I  am grateful she has reproduced them. My own experience of developing provision for children and young people is that being local, and ensuring really good and consistent staff are appointed, is central to offer a youth programme. The notion that a super duper mega centre will necessarily attract hundreds of young people, from across the borough is just that - a notion. We know there are post code problems in Haringey, and we know that often young people don't like to travel round, especially at night.  As for younger children, (from aged 8) I cannot see how this will cater for them. Services need to be local, in easy distance from home so as many children and young people can benefit as possible.

There are additional issues here about  governance; ownership and forward planning. £6.5 m for a building is a huge commitment at a time of such financial pressure. There can be no guarantee that this organisation will, in the long run, be able to generate the very huge amount of revenue needed to run it, nor that hundreds of children and young people will be criss-crossing the borough every night. It may work, but conducting a full risk assessment and or SWOT analysis to anticipate and plan for worst eventualities would be a starting point.  

Services need to be local so as many children and young people as possible can benefit. Haringey has lots of venues, like the Triangle Centre, and some funding fro youth staff and resources would be a great investment in the area. 

Zena Brabazon

Councillor, Harringay ward.

My attention has been drawn to a blog published today on http://opinion8.ning.com/forum/topics/another-disastrous-decision-i... that one which contains a copy of a Haringey Council headed document making the case to all Labour Councillors to give the £3m capital and £225k per annum revenue to OnSide charity at Woodside School.  Click on the link to read it yourself. I believe it was circulated to those councillors within the past few weeks prior to their vote about the project at this coming Tuesday's Labour Group meeting. It is not signed, as surely would be usual, by a senior Council officer charged with the task of assessing a project like this. But, as is described in the blog, the author has been discovered to be the Director of Marketing and Communications for....OnSide! The very charity due to be given the cash. 

This irregularity alone means that a pause needs to be called on the project, so that the whole process can be properly scrutinised by the incoming administration in May and/or kicked into the long grass again! But until that happens, I think it's reasonable that all those of us who are involved in voluntary groups when we make small grant applications to the Council, to insist that our own arguments in favour of the council funding us should circulated to Members under a Haringey Logo, purporting to come from the Council Leadership.  It's only fair! 

The whole problem with the OnSide solution, which promises ambitious match for the Council's own funding, is that it sounds attractive. But as someone involved in voluntary groups delivering youth services said at the meetings we held last year about the project being located in Chestnuts Park - "Give us that firm promise of Council Capital and Revenue and I'll get you double match from corporate and charitable sources within weeks." It's not hard to do! Money, and most particular, firm promises of 3 years' money, is solid gold for voluntary groups in their work of raising matched funds for projects.

How can it be deemed the right,  without any proper commissioning or tendering, to just give the money to a large external charity which has approached Haringey with their own proposal? There may be loopholes which allow it, I don't know. But it's not right.  

As Ceri points out, councillors have been sent a document which pretends to be Frequently asked Questions (FAQs) about the Youth Zone; plus the answers. Apparently it was sent on behalf of the "cabinet" councillor. However, as Cllr Clive Carter has spotted, its author - or perhaps co-author? - is shown as the "Head of Marketing & Communications" for Onside: the proposed third party contractors! 

This should have been made clear. The Council's logo should not been used. The involvement of the senior person in Onside should have been set out. Their job includes: "... to support the future requirements of future youth zones". In other words the interests and future expansion and acquisition of new centres by their employers.

Hopefully some fresh air and light will be shed on how someone working for Onside - a potential future contractor with Haringey Council - apparently came to write, or perhaps be involved in writing - a document intended to provide professional  information to Haringey councillors.

In my view all Haringey councillors and residents should, as far as possible, have unbiased professional advice from staff who work for the Council and solely serve the interests of the borough and its residents. Not serving the interests of lobbyists; nor developers; nor contractors or would-be contractors. Nor the careers of politicians.

What I hoped we've established is that this particular procurement process appears deeply flawed. With significant risk to land, finances and services. In other words, SNAFU for the Kober Regime.

In a strange way, I feel sorry for Onside. For the sake of argument, let's assume that their model may indeed be successful and positive; and highly beneficial to young people in Haringey.  Imagine that you were Onside and genuinely want to work openly and amicably with Haringey Council in the future. Isn't the last thing you'd want an agreement whipped though the Labour Group with significant opposition in the dying days of the Regime?

It would also be agreed on the transparent pretence that it's the same scheme as last year - even though this is clearly about a new site with a different legal set-up. A scheme lacking a proper evaluation. And with so many loose ends and unanswered questions, that the new Council - whatever its composition - is likely to find a mess to clear up. Not a good start on which begin an open co-operative relationship with new people.

[Please see my political declaration here]

I wish you guys would give them a break. They take children skiing! For that much money every child in Haringey can be taken skiing, every year and that's what I presume they're going to do.

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