Paul Goodman MP, the Shadow Minister for Communities and Local Government, has been trying to get his hands on details of where the Preventing Violent Extremism budget for 2008-2009 is being spent.
He hasn’t got it.
This is what he thinks is going on:
She writes that the DCLG “is working closely…to collate information setting out progress on the development of local partnerships and action plans. This includes information on engagement, including details about which community groups are funded for leading local projects”.
What this gobbledegook means, in plain English, is that the DCLG doesn’t hold up to date information about where the money’s gone – hence the delay in publication.
But local authorities will have decided which projects to spend this year’s PVE money on last spring – and allocated the money since then. It was the same last year. This is why Blears was able to give me the 2007-8 details in January 2008. So why doesn’t the DCLG hold up to date information this year?
Which leads to the big question: since it doesn’t, how can Blears guarantee that taxpayers’ money hasn’t ended up in hands of extremists – like those we saw recently on the streets of Luton?
I like Hazel Blears very much and I think she is an excellent minister: a real bulwark against both extremism and those who advocate accomodating with extremists. There are people working in DCLG on PVE who are first rate, and who understand precisely what the problem is, and are determined to defeat the vicious politics of the Islamist far right.
The point that Paul Goodman is making is a good one, however.
Not everybody involved in making decision on how to spend PVE cash, at the local government level, is on top of the issue. There have been some absolute horror stories of PVE cash being handed over to clerical fascist front groups. I have particular concern about the way that money is being spent in some London boroughs, where things appear to have gone very badly wrong.
Shiraz Maher and Martyn Frampton’s report on engagement provides similar examples.
It is possible that, as Paul Goodman charges, the information on PVE expenditure has gone astray or has simply not been collected. If that is so, or if the collection and analysis of data could be in any way improved, there is no shame in DLGC admitting that things can be done better, in the future.