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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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Getting 50% funding match or even 60% match for guaranteed local authority funding isn't a challenge for most charities. The problem with this project is that it hasn't arisen out of any real existing policies or strategies. 

Billy, what Ceri has reported are not perceptions, "petty whinges and gripes". There is a lot of public money involved in this project and if anything is based on assumptions, it is the idea that one big building in one location is going to work for young people of all Haringey. There were no consultations, debates and, as the documents obtained through the Freedom of Information show, there are no minutes of most meetings between the Council and OnSide. We have no idea what went on and what deals were struck. Besides, minutes are records and they are used in legal proceedings.

FYI -- ICSA, The Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators, offers in the introduction reasons for minute-keeping and admits that there has been little guidance in this matter.


"Taking minutes of meetings is administrative good practice. It creates a record of what has been agreed, and by whom; and of what is to be done, by when and by whom. For such a basic aspect of the administration of business of all kinds, it is surprising that there is relatively little formal guidance about how the minutes of business meetings might most effectively be taken.
As part of a general update of our guidance for members, ICSA: The Governance Institute had been looking at this area. During our review, we were struck by the changes in practice that have developed over recent years. Board meetings1
are the highest level internal decision-making forum of an organisation and the proper purpose of minutes is to provide a formal, long-term internal record of those meetings, for the benefit of the organisation rather than for any third party. The minutes may, however, subsequently become relevant in legal proceedings and are increasingly subject to external scrutiny."

I do hope that we can save what can be saved and move forward in an across parties approach to youth services.

This will be another of the council leader's legacy. Lots of meetings, very few minutes, no lunch bills.

It's not "very few minutes", John. With Onside, councillors have been told there are NO minutes of meetings.

Great stuff, eh? Public land; long leases, Public cash; current and future obligations.  Private meetings; no paperwork; no minutes.

Jack's been to the market and returned with a few magic beans.

Billy, you are correct that my position is that public land should not become private property. But aside from that, I am not against youth centres and OnSide. OnSide seems to be doing a decent job in smaller cities, but their record in London is not as good. And for all the reasons mentioned above, only one youth centre of these proportions is not a solution for Haringey at this moment.

Now, there is also a precedent of how the Council has dealt with OnSide charity, when last year they had agreed (again without informing interested parties, so all hush-hush rush-rush) to build a youth centre in Chestnuts Park. The Council was going to lease the land of 2400m2 for £1 for 90 years -- not quite private property but certainly a bargain deal for OnSide. This was taken from meeting minutes when they existed. 

It is not just about form but substance and transparency and democratic process.

Billy I've tried to get Cllrs to ensure minutes of external meetings are at least taken (if not published) and it hasn't worked. 

Eventually they provided an excuse I couldn't overcome. They told me that they have no control over 'third party' minute taking. In other words, if a Cllr meets say, a Charity, it's up to the Charity to take the minutes and if they don't, it's not the Cllrs fault.

I don't accept this hogwash but was not able to get past it. There used to be a Cllrs 'Charter' binding conduct that all Cllrs had to sign as a condition of employment - that might be a way forward.

I really hope the culture and attitude change. There has to be more accountability and thus transparency.

And maybe we can have a cross-party approach to end all the bad practices which seem to have become the "new normal" at the top of Haringey Council.

● Including agreement to adopt best practice on record keeping and minute-taking.
● Agreement to end secret decision-taking pre-meetings which make a mockery of Council meetings and public "deputations".
● An end to the outgoing regime's highly restrictive approach to freedom of information even when required by statute. And also practice restricting councillors' "Right to Know" under Common Law and confirmed in our Council's Constitution.
● An end to the Propaganda Unit and instead a real Information Team.
● And of course an end to free dinners, free gifts, free hotels and foreign trips with or paid for by contractors or potential contractors.
Here again there's a sound model: the Nolan Principles of Public Life. Haringey needs to apply them in practice instead paying lip-service.

We might then find that more people come forward to become councillors who don't just see it as a step in their brilliant future as an MP or whatever. And perhaps more Haringey electors will bother to vote because they see it as making a real difference.

These suggestions just for starters.

Alan, these are excellent suggestions! And I am all for collaboration!

Very little of this is likely to happen Alan, it's just officialdom. We have plenty of standards, it's just that they're not followed. Haringey signed up to the Government's 'Transparency Code' but they simply don't enact it in practice. Ours is a representative democracy that gives our Cllrs a lot of leeway to 'interpret' emphasis. That's not going to change anytime soon.

What you've left out is a real, everyday commitment to openness that is easily measurable, comparable across councils - 'open data'.  Our Council is high on some league tables and low on others. Openness is just one measure. It's a political decision, borne I guess of years of crap thrown at them by the media, starting in the Bernie Grant era when it was particularly vicious. understandable then, that a culture of batten-down-the-hatches has festered.

Some London Councils are better at being open than others but it's really in America that they're far ahead. There's not that much difference between here and there in how most stuff is run. Obama appointed a Chief Technology Officer for the USA who recruited volunteer 'brigades' who are still busy creating open systems to run councils from. They set standards we are obliged to follow, as they do in most areas of tech. All open source and so free of licence costs, constant imnprovements also being free. 

I see the Council as maintainers of a wide range of databases, almost all of which they could open to residents. I want the open data 'dashboard' many other Councils maintain:

If you look a the amount of open data Haringey provide it's the absolute minimum - mainly monthly spending data that is incredibly opaque. 

Open data is the basis for a sea-change in culture and the biggest anti-corruption weapon but it'll only happen if the new leadership want it and it's not even on their agenda as far as I can tell.  As Cllrs, they don't seem to 'get' the modern tech-savvy world and, at best, follow along lamely - have you looked at the Council mapping facility recently? Dreadful. Been stuck that way for years.

A sad thing is, open data using open source software is way cheaper than the way they do things now. Successive Chief Execs, where they even consider it, always make the right noises but nothing happens, the Council is still locked into gargantuan, privately owned software packages that limit what they can do to what the private sector will accept payment for.

It's as if they somehow feel they don't need the free and open tools that others use to run similar organisations - they can get along without any IT scrutiny (let alone input) from us. Why don't they have a user group of residents driving their website?  Not interested. 

That culture would change if more 'normal' people choose to step forward but with people like you constantly hating on the council, adding to the powerful 'small state' propaganda vomited forth by the billionaire-owned mainstream media, is that really likely?

Chris, Each and every suggestion I made is within the remit of the councillors running Haringey. The Chief Executive, as head of paid service, works to the "leader" and "cabinet". If the latter say so then the rules can be changed accordingly.

But just to take one suggestion, the requirement to take notes and minutes and have a proper record of negotiations is simply good professional practice, for the reasons given by Michael Anderson, Ivana Curcic and by me.

"Officialdom" in Haringey does without all that? Then they need to hear that - as from immediately - lax unprofessional bad habits no longer apply.
But in practice staff know this already. Take for example a call from a councillor to some senior member of staff.  Admin staff will make a note, and depending on the issue raised, it may be logged as a "Member [councillor] Inquiry". Or there will be an email "trail".

Here's the really interesting question. Why would any senior member of staff meeting or otherwise in discussion as part of legal and financial negotiations with another organisation - as in this case a contract for services; or a lease; or the sale of land; or payment of large sums of cash; - why would they would ever fail to, or choose not to record those contacts?
It makes no sense whatever to me.

Chris how do you run your own business and personal affairs? Have lunch, shake hands, and hope for the best and that nothing goes wrong?

Thank you, Ceri! It is indeed a depressing account of lack of transparency, mishandling, and suppression of democratic procedures... or possibly even more! And since it is fast-tracked, it shows a keenness that is very troubling. 



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