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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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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.

Do you have a problem with skiing John?

You've tweeted about this several times. Are you allergic to snow? Sounds like we should get plenty next week. But what is your problem with kids going skiing?

I do not have a problem with skiing. It's quite an expensive pastime though. I'm skiing in Norway at Easter. I'm looking forward to seeing some other Haringeyites on the slopes sponsored by this MASSIVE BUNG from Onside.

Are there any other expensive past times that Haringey shouldn't be allowed to participate in John? A decent cricket bat will set you back over £200 so we can rule cricket out. I guess it's barefoot running?

John, one really shocking thing about the Onside fiasco is that - even now - some of the Kobots and apparently their senior officers don't understand the basics of contracting. Don't grasp that there needs to be a clear line between those who represent the Council's and residents' interests; and those senior staff working for potential contractors.

A hopelessly blurred line helps nobody and further corrodes public trust.

By the way. I've no idea how many Haringey schools organise subsidised skiing and other trips for their students. Our daughter's comprehensive did. But that was a long long time ago.

It's not even come close to happening yet so this company has been already described as discredited and we have a deselected Cllr calling it a fiasco.

Perhaps you could enlighten us to the large scale successes in your career..you know setting up enterprises from scratch, dealing with complex multiple stakeholders which new start ups have to deal with day to day.

Armchair criticism of organisations like Onside who have achieved far more than either of your ever have done or ever will is frankly pathetic. 

Too many talkers and not enough doers.

Showing uncharacteristic modesty Alan? Must be something you can share?

I don't have a problem with Onside itself or skiing. I believe Onside offer good stuff to young people at their centres. I haven't called them discredited at all, only the 2017 proposal for Chestnuts was discredited and rejected - by everyone, including Onside. I think that the OnSide skiing trip John put links to was paid for by a donation Onside got, and it looked like the young people got lots from it. (Schools and youth clubs used to take loads of young people on adventure trips including skiing, and for everyone including those who can't afford it otherwise, it's usually a great experience. However, nowadays I would have thought that keeping centres like Haringey's Welsh outdoor centre Pendarren open would allow all children from the borough's schools to experience this kind of thing rather than just a small number of lucky ones who get donated funding to go on expensive ski trips, but that's for another discussion). 

My problem with this OnSide/Woodside deal is that it just has not been procured or assessed properly, will tie up borough wide youth funding just within one school and have negative effects on opportunities across the borough. And the fact that the Haringey headed FAQ document urging Labour councillors to vote to give Onside the cash at Tuesday's meeting seems to have actually been written by Onside itself, just reinforces my concerns.  

I wish we didn't have to waste time opposing things, and could spend more time making good things happen, which is what I try to spend the majority of my time doing. But sometimes it feels necessary to speak up. Fine for anyone to disagree of course. 

I've just submitted a Freedom of Information request https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/records_of_council_contacts_...

asking the following questions:

Dear Haringey Borough Council,

Between April 2017 to the present day please supply:
• records of meetings and emails between Woodside High School and Haringey Council in relation to the OnSide Youth Zone project
And beween 01.01.2010 and 01.01. 2016 please supply:
• records of any meetings including meals, receptions and informal meetings between Haringey Council officers, councillors or consultants with anyone representing OnSide Youth Zones"

There are more unanswered questions of course, but this is a start. Very much hoping that Labour Group councillors will vote against this ill conceived cash giveaway tonight. Several of those usually voting with the current Cabinet have privately acknowledged that they know this isn't a good decision or location. They should be able to vote with their conscience tonight, I hope they feel able to. 

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