The facts on Community Development work in Shipley

There’s been a lot of back and forth in Shipley at the moment on Community Development (CD) funding and as is so often the case it can be hard to split fact from opinion.

With that in mind, here are some facts about CD funding in Shipley:

  • Four community centres currently receive CD funding in Shipley constituency, Kirkgate Community Centre in Shipley, Baildon Community Link in Baildon and North-East Windhill Community Association (NEWCA) and Bolton Woods Community Centre (BWCC) both in Windhill & Wrose
  • Two options were put forward to Shipley Area Committee (SAC) for a decision on how to split the CD money devolved to the Tory-controlled SAC from the Labour-run Council
  • Option one was put forward by council officers and split the available funding equally between the four community centres, which would continue the proportions as it exists currently. The CD workers who receive the funding all agreed they were satisfied with this arrangement
  • Option two was put forward by the Conservative Chair, Cllr Heseltine. This option reduced the amount available for the Windhill & Wrose community centres by £6,000 and redistributed it to the Shipley and Baildon community centres. He initially proposed reducing the amount for Windhill & Wrose by several thousand pounds more
  • The vote on this was as follows: Two Tory votes in favour of allowing option two, one Labour vote against and one Green abstention. Cllr Love of the Greens had made clear his opposition to Option two but abstained, arguing that forcing a tied vote would still allow Cllr Heseltine to use his casting vote to push through option two
  • Community Development money is intended to be distributed with regard to statistics on deprivation, gathered to national standards, to help communities in poorer areas become stronger and more self-reliant
  • One of the quickest ways to determine levels of deprivation is to look at what are known as Lower Super-Output Areas (LSOA). These map statistics for an area, and you can use them to look at, for instance, areas among the top 20% of deprivation in the country
  • Shipley constituency has eight LSOAs in the top 20% for deprivation in the country. Six of these are in Windhill. One is on the border of Shipley and Lower Baildon, and the other is on the border of Shipley and Bingley. There are no 20% LSOAs in Bingley Rural or Wharfedale
  • Splitting the CD funding on this basis would give the Windhill community centres 75% of the funding. The remaining 25% would go to Kirkgate and Baildon with Kirkgate getting the majority to reflect their work in the remaining two LSOAs while Baildon would operate partially in one
  • This is not what was on the table or what anyone was arguing for. Option one kept the existing arrangement where half went to Kirkgate and Baildon while option two took an additional £6,000 from Windhill and Wrose on top of this
  • The SAC voted for option two
  • Most CD workers felt option two compromised their ability to deliver the targeted outputs SAC are asking. For instance, Kirkgate have been doing work in the LSOA described above of Shipley/Lower Baildon and have succeeded in attracting additional funding to augment their work here but will not now be funded for this by the CD money. Under option two this now transfers to Baildon. Kirkgate also felt that dividing the funding in an unequal manner made it harder to work together with CD workers across Shipley when the funding was unequal
  • After the first meeting, I ‘called in’ the vote, as there had been little debate on option two in the meeting and I believed the committee under-estimated the effect it would have on CD worker’s ability to deliver outcomes for their areas
  • The decision was reviewed at the Corporate & Overview Scrutiny Committee, who sent the decision back for reconsideration at the SAC, stating that they believed not enough consideration had been given to the deprivation statistics, particularly for Windhill & Wrose. This was a unanimous and cross-party decision with Labour, Conservative and ex-Respect Cllrs voting in favour
  • At the second SAC the vote went the same way as before with Shipley Conservatives, holding a majority of votes, deciding on option two
  • Conservative councillors justified their decision by stating that areas like Baildon and Wharfedale (both covered by Baildon Community Link) have significant problems with isolation among the elderly and that this required additional funding to deal with
  • Public Health data, available for free online, shows that deprivation and isolation among older people is a bigger problem in Windhill & Wrose than it is in either Baildon or Wharfedale. Deprivation data shows Wharfedale is one of the least deprived wards in all of Bradford
  • Baildon Community Link receives over £24,000 a year direct from the Council’s Community Development Unit for daycare work with older people in addition to their core CD grant. No other community centre receives this amount, although Bolton Woods Community Centre receives £1,000 a year for a luncheon club for the elderly
  • Baildon Community Link also receives £10,000 a year direct from the Council’s Community Development Unit for additional work with 11-13 year olds
  • Bradford Council distributes CD funding across Bradford according to the same deprivation data referenced above. This shows Shipley is the least-deprived constituency in all Bradford.
  • The Conservative-led government has cut all of their funding for CD work, meaning the Labour-run Council now has to spread it’s share of the funding even further. Although the funding from the Council has been reduced in light of ongoing Government budget cuts, the Council has maintained some level of funding for CD work.
  • In light of the fall in funding for Shipley based on deprivation data, the Council has provided a transitional fund to Shipley for this year
  • Despite this, the SAC Chair, Cllr Heseltine, justified his decision to cut funding from Windhill & Wrose to the Telegraph & Argus by saying Shipley constituency got a poor deal from Bradford Council, so if Windhill & Wrose wanted extra funding the Council should give Shipley more money overall

These are the facts, I’ve tried to strip opinion out of them as much as possible. I thought it would be useful to have it all laid out as sadly many of the debates we’ve had at Shipley Area Committee regurgitate the same old opinions regardless of what data is put forward by officers or from elsewhere.

I should stress none of the facts above sway me from my opinion that deprivation exists in some form in all communities, and therefore should be addressed where possible by CD funding. I believe option one would have provided that.

The argument was more on the scale of deprivation in certain areas and how the funding should be distributed with consideration to what other services were already being provided in the area.

The argument is done for this year, but presumably we’ll be back around the table next year to go over it all again. The joys of politics!

Tory Ministers blame “diversity” on declining civil service standards

Ex-MP Paul Goodman wrote an interesting piece on ConservativeHome today about his concerns over the civil service at Westminster and the alleged growing problems the government are having in dealing with them.

On the whole it’s pretty well-balanced, but one section in particular stuck out to me.

As Goodman outlines his three areas of concern and experience in dealing with the civil service, he comments on something that Conservative Ministers with experience of government allegedly all continually claim, namely the declining standards of the civil service.

This, it is claimed, can be blamed on,

Labour’s “diversity agenda” for the civil service…background or gender or ethnicity came to count for more than ability

So let’s get this straight, the reason there have been declining standards in the civil service is because Labour insisted that the civil service hire more working class people, more women and more black and asian or other ethnic minority people?

Because obviously there are no working class people, women or ethnic minorities who can possibly write letters in clear English, which is what Paul Goodman uses as an example of declining standards.

Are Tory Ministers really claiming that standards have declined because more women work in the civil service?

Do they look at a woman or someone with a regional accent and automatically believe they must have gotten there because of their gender or class and not on account of their own talents?

Have they taken a note of every poorly drafted letter and noted who wrote it, and checked to see if it was a woman, a black person, or something from the North of England?

How many Tory Ministers actually have previous experience of government? There can’t be many – Ken Clarke springs to mind. Who else has these ridiculous views?

The funny thing is these Ministers would never have the guts to say this publicly because they know the public would excoriate them, so instead they whisper it anonymously to journalists so they can drip feed their poison into the media without ever having to be held accountable for their views.

At Bradford Council we’ve announced we’re looking at ways we can tackle under-representation of ethnic minorities at a senior Council level. I’m confident we can do so without declining standards, even if anonymous Conservative Ministers would appear to disagree.

The article is about issues concerning the civil service, but it shows up the issues many people have with politicians too.

IDS and universal credit. “They lied to him.” Trouble with the civil service The Tory Diary.

Labour’s clumsy advances on Vince Cable risk making us look stupid

Are Labour really so clumsy as to openly court Vince Cable and pretend we’re privately best chums with him?

The way I see it this strategy has two broad aims:

  • Orientate the party for a potential post-2015 coalition with the Lib Dems, with Vince Cable as Leader.
  • Destabilise the coalition, increasing the likelihood of a collapse and snap election, in which Labour would emerge as the largest party.

The question really is whether such a strategy will work or whether we will end up with egg on our faces.

We know Cable has had his vanity stroked before, but he’s not that stupid, even if he was vain enough to mouth off about News International to a couple of young, female (undercover) reporters.

The public aren’t so stupid either, and can well see what we’re up to. It risks looking like indulging in childish student politics when there are such big issues that need tackling.

It feels like there is little to gain and instead we just look daft, after spending years slagging off the Lib Dems (with Ed’s insincere ‘I want to destroy them’ line as a clumsy (albeit effective, seemingly) pitch during the Labour leadership election) then suddenly we sincerely love Vince Cable and declare that we could work with him tomorrow, regardless of parliamentary arithmetic.

It’s like banging on about what a leader Charles Kennedy is to undermine current Lib Dem leaders. ‘Well, the problem with Nick Clegg is that he’s no Charlie Kennedy’, as if we really, really liked Charles Kennedy and secretly supported him. It might work to wind up Nick Clegg but it doesn’t really achieve much.

We didn’t secretly love Charles Kennedy, and while Vince Cable may say things that chime with a lot of Labour members and supporters he is still in a Coalition with the Tories and his party will not be holding back any punches when it comes to campaigning against us in an election.

Similarly, Lib Dem supporters aren’t that stupid either, and they’re not (all) secret Labour supporters. Seeing a couple of prominent Labour politicians suddenly act as if they’re best buddies with Vince Cable is not going to make Lib Dem supporters more likely to demand Nick Clegg’s head on a platter.

Surely the result will be the other way round and they’ll see what we’re up to (a plot so visible you can see it from the moon) and rally round Clegg instead. To many Lib Dems, Labour are just as bigger enemy as the Tories and we should be aware of that. Those who used to vote Lib Dem as a centre-left alternative have now left the party and have started to support Labour again. Those who remain are not secret Labour supporters yearning to break free.

While speculation about Cameron’s job grows daily, it’s understandable that Labour want to stir up the hornet’s nest a bit but it all has the feel of the silly season about it. Supposedly even Thatcher at the height of her powers had up to 100 Tory MPs who disliked her and wanted to get rid of her (I think I read this in Alan Clarke’s diaries, so take it for what you will).

Of course, some parts of the media will play along, like the Daily Mail, out of a general dislike for David Cameron, who they blame for not being Margaret Thatcher. So they’ll happily print stories designed to needle and destabilise him and it’s part of Labour’s job as the Opposition to provide these stories. I can understand that.

I’m all for a bit of mischief making but like when we stormed to a Greggs at the height of the Pasty Tax furore and pretended it was all a coincidence, can we at least try and show a bit of class and do it cleverly without making it blatantly obvious to all and sundry what we’re up to?

Maybe we’re enacting a clever bluff, to secure Clegg’s position and further our chances as the only ‘progressive’ vote in 2015 to better enable us to build a majority.

Nah, I don’t think so either.

UPDATE: Seems I might have overestimated some Lib Dems. Though in fairness I suppose you could argue Ming is angry at Vince for the sake of coalition unity so it’s not quite the same thing.