The Worknet debacle Governance in Waltham Forest, 2001 to 2012

The Worknet debacle
Waltham Forest Council and Youth Training


Waltham Forest shows all the signs of being an officer-led council, with the political control which ought to be exercised by elected members non-existent. Tom Thumb, 27 Mar 12

   

Cllr Mark Rusling"The key thing around youth unemployment is skills. If you sort out that you'll get young people into jobs. Obviously schools have a role to play around literacy and numeracy, but in too many areas there's a disconnect between what happens at school and work. I want to close that gap.”

wfcw ‘Our Olympics': (3) The National Construction College’s Cathall Rd. facility
Nick Tiratsoo
April 10, 2015
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The National Construction College’s facility in Cathall Rd., on the Leyton-Leytonstone border, was presented by LBWF as the jewel in the crown of Waltham Forest’s Olympic legacy. Looking like a super IKEA, looming over the surrounding buildings, and hyped by every Labour hack from Cathall Councillor Terry Wheeler to the Leader himself, here was something, the patter ran, that was really going to impact on local people’s lives, and in particular dramatically diminish worklessness.
Today, the Construction Academy is virtually forgotten, and the rumour is that it will soon close. Locals hope that it becomes a real IKEA, but the likelihood is that it will be replaced by boxy flats.
Council Leader Chris Robbins, Mayor of Waltham Forest Councillor Terry Wheeler, Chief Executive Martin Esom, and Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Environment Councillor Clyde Loakes (from left to right) at Drapers Field.Park closed for Olympics re-opened after £2m refurbishment
8th July 2014
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Photo: Council Leader Chris Robbins, Mayor of Waltham Forest Councillor Terry Wheeler, Chief Executive Martin Esom, and Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Environment Councillor Clyde Loakes (from left to right) at Drapers Field.
Drapers Field in Leyton was controversially closed in 2011 in preparation for the London Olympics has been re-opened.
Council leader Chris Robbins said: “It’s a wonderful place and packed with local people young and old.” “Anyone who wants to see something tangible and lasting that the Olympic and Paralympic Games has brought to this borough as a legacy should get themselves down here. “It’s fantastic.”
Sport England identified Leyton as an area without enough facilities for sport in the borough.
lbwfOlympic Games spending in Waltham Forest revealed
25th April 2013
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The London 2012 Olympic Games resulted in almost £80 million being spent on various projects in Waltham Forest, according to a report.
Olympic logoOlympic Torch relay costs Waltham Forest second most in UK
29th May 2013
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Figures obtained by the Press Association under the Freedom of Information Act show the average spend of councils was just over £40,000, meaning Waltham Forest spent nearly seven times more than the average
Nutshell Waltham Forest Olympics, 2012
WF OlympicsOlympic Torch relay costs Waltham Forest second most in UK
29th May 2013
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Fabrice Muamba during the Olympic Torch Relay event at Walthamstow Town Hall
Last year’s Olympic Torch relay cost the borough over £279,000, the second-highest figure of any local authority in the country and more than £155,000 higher than the next authority on the list, new figures show. Had the total cost of the relay’s visit to the borough, £279,009.18, been just £971 more it would have meant Waltham Forest spent more money than any council in the UK.
Figures obtained by the Press Association under the Freedom of Information Act show the average spend of councils was just over £40,000, meaning Waltham Forest spent nearly seven times more than the average.
Councillor Chris Robbins, Leader of Waltham Forest Council, said: ““The London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games were a once in a lifetime opportunity, and the Council wanted to ensure that as a host borough we made the most of them for our residents. “The Olympic Torch Relay was a fantastic way for the community to come together and celebrate the arrival of the Olympic Games.
Waltham Forest spent the second most, just behind Bexley which spent £279,979, while Wandsworth , the smallest amount on the list, spent just £710.14.
Olympic marketShopkeepers in Leyton High Road say the Olympics has turned the area into a "ghost town" - while a temporary pop-up food market has been branded a disaster due to a lack of visitors.
1st August 2012
Amit Gokani, of Croydon, is one of dozens of furious traders who signed up to rent stalls at a temporary Olympic and Paralympic Games market in Marshall Road, where pitches cost £13,500 for 45 days.
He said: "I'm fuming. We've been completely sold up the river.
"I was sold this on the pledge that there would be around 33,000 people on Monday and the same on Tuesday. Instead I've seen about 150 people since Friday.
"I've spent £10,000 on food and equipment alone but in the last four days I've made £28.
"Many of us have had to take out loans, and beg, borrow and steal to get the money to pay for these stalls, but it's been a disaster."
The management of the pop-up market was contracted out by the council to the North London Business group and Skateco UK Ltd. Gary Ince, chief executive of North London Business, said: “It has been incredibly disappointing. “We were expecting significant footfall but it hasn't happened – it seems all the visitors are being directed to get off at Stratford or West Ham, and not Leyton Tube station.” He added that organisers were keeping a close on eye on visitor numbers in the coming days and were considering what to do next.

 
wfcwThe planning committee at Waltham Forest Council will consider plans to turn the Walthamstow Marine Engine House into a visitor centre and café
2nd June 2014
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2012 - Waltham Forest Council Chief Executive Martin Esom, Bob Neil MP, Thames Water Chief Executive Martin Baggs and council leader Cllr Chris Robbins at the launch announcement of the plans last year.Waltham Forest council's planning committee will decide on whether to allow the Marine Engine House in Walthamstow to be converted into a visitors centre, with a café, a play area, a viewing platform and walkways. Plans also include a 72-space car park and 40 cycle spaces. The ‘Water and Life Centre’ project, which had an initial estimated cost of £10m, was scaled back in 2012. The design process and land surveys cost £288,000, paid for with a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Thames Water has pledged £1.5m for the project.
Natural England has objected to the proposal on the grounds not enough information has been provided on the impact that the site will have.
The plans include converting the turbine room into a learning space. The boiler room will become a shop and exhibition area, while the café will be created in the triple engine room. The Coppermill Tower will provide a viewing platform for visitors and a rangers building will be upgraded for management. If approved the transformation is expected to take two years.
 
Lloyd ParkImprovement works to Lloyd and Aveling Park
A Total of £745,000 of public money earmarked for Olympics projects is set to be spent on a bailout for the multi-million pound renovation of a park, it has emerged.
It comes after consultants hired by Waltham Forest Council underestimated the cost of
They originally said the cost of the project, which includes a new cafe, gallery, play areas and other works, would be just under £4million.
NutshellOlympics cash to bailout park after blunder
7th April 2011
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A TOTAL of £745,000 of public money earmarked for Olympics projects is set to be spent on a bailout for the multi-million pound renovation of a park, it has emerged.
It comes after consultants hired by Waltham Forest Council underestimated the cost of improvement works to Lloyd and Aveling Park in Walthamstow.
They originally said the cost of the project, which includes a new cafe, gallery, play areas and other works, would be just under £4million.
The council received £3.5million in grant money from the National Lottery to help pay for it, but no contractor was prepared to carry out the work within the budget drawn up by the consultants.
The council has so far not revealed which consultants were responsible and how much they were paid.
The authority has spent the last few months downsizing and altering some parts of the plans, but has still been unable to bring the costs down far enough.
The delay caused by the incorrect estimates has also meant the refurbishment may not now be completed until summer 2012, meaning the authority will also have to pay out a further £45,000 to a project manager.
The council now says the works will cost £4.6million, and the National Lottery says it will not agree to the revised plans for the park unless the authority pays for the shortfall.
As a result, council officers have recommended that the £745,000 funding gap be plugged with cash from its Olympic Capital programme budget.
The plans will be discussed and voted on by the authority's cabinet at a meeting next Wednesday (April 13).
Waltham Forest’s Cabinet Member for Leisure, Arts and Culture, Cllr Geraldine Reardon, said: “Most residents will be very familiar with situations where the original quote for a project doesn’t match the final cost - this is a simple but aggravating fact of life, whatever the scale of the project.
“This was, of course, disappointing and presented us with some difficult choices. However, rather than risk losing both the Heritage Lottery Fund’s £3.5million grant and the money that had already been spent we decided to bridge the gap with some of the funding that has been put aside for improvement works in the run-up to the 2012 Games.
“As one of the borough’s best loved open spaces we are absolutely committed to Lloyd Park’s restoration and redevelopment.
"The work will be a showcase for both the borough and the 2012 Games, and frankly we refuse to let these hurdles dampen our enthusiasm for what will doubtless be an even popular destination for residents and visitors alike.”

oregenO-Regen Lloyd Park debacle
Blind leading the Blind

April 30, 2011 by truthwilloutinwalthamforest
A senior Council officer responsible for the Lloyd Park debacle has been tasked with bailing out a local development charity, O-Regen, after it got itself into serious financial difficulties.
Head of Cultural Services and former Labour Leader of Waltham Forest Council, Clive Morton, has been tasked with investigating how and why O-Regen has consistently made losses over the last five years.
Clive MortonO-Regen’s financial history can be seen here and shows the accumulative loss over the last five years as £1,621,728.
O-Regen’s Board of Trustees consists of three Waltham Forest Councillors and its chair is Leader of the Waltham Forest Conservatives, Cllr Matt Davis.
Interestingly, earlier this year Cllr Davis demanded that the council must “get real” about costs and “If something is going to cost a certain amount of money, that’s how much you should budget for.”
With Cllr Davies’ leadership acumen, Cllr Terry Wheeler’s regeneration expertise and Clive Morton’s financial acumen we are sure O-Regen is in capable hands.
 
   
wfcwLEYTONSTONE: Construction training centre finally opens
12th December 2010
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A NEW £7million Construction Training Centre, which was supposed to help students get jobs on the Olympic site, has finally opened in Leytonstone.
It is being run by the National Construction College and aims to help provide skills to thousands of residents in the borough.
The centre, in Cathall Road, was criticised earlier this year as a "missed opportunity" after a six-month delay to the project meant there would not be enough time for it to help train local people to work on the 2012 Games site.
But the council denied the claims and said it was never meant to just provide construction workers for the Olympic venues.
The centre was opened earlier this week by local politicians including council leader Cllr Chris Robbins and Leyton and Wanstead MP John Cryer.
It will provide courses in skills such as roofing, flooring, steel fixing, working at heights and general construction.
It has already been providing training courses in dry lining and scaffolding since November and from January will be offering more than 100 apprenticeships a year in construction skills.
Cllr Robbins, said: “This is a fantastic, world-class training facility for local residents and people from across east London which will play a vital role in helping us benefit from the legacy of the Olympic and Paralympic Games."
Call the National Construction College on 0844 844 0466 for more information.
wfcwHome Secretary Theresa May praises borough's gang action programme
8th July 2013
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A gang initiative in the borough has been roundly praised following a high-powered visit last week.
The Home Secretary Theresa May, MPs Iain Duncan-Smith and Stella Creasy, with Council Leader Chris Robbins, met last Thursday at Leytonstone's Construction Skills Centre in Cathall Road, where ex-gang members have been learning trades.
Sitting down with councillors, officers, police representatives, programme providers, former gang members and people whose lives has been affected by gang violence the visit was to demonstrate what the borough is doing to help vulnerable people back into education, training and work.
After the visit the Home Secretary said: “Gang violence has a devastating impact on communities. We need to change the lives of young people before they get sucked into a life of violence and crime.
"This project in Waltham Forest is an excellent example of the work being done at a local level to provide vulnerable youngsters with a way out of trouble.”
Olympic legacy training centre'Unemployed 'let down by Olympic legacy training centre'
1st March 2013
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A multi-million pound construction training centre hailed as an Olympic legacy for Waltham Forest has delivered just a fraction of the promised number of apprenticeships for local people.
Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act also suggest that the majority of such trainees at the Cathall Road National Skills Academy in Leytonstone are not even from Waltham Forest.
When the £7.24million centre opened late in 2010, Waltham Forest Council claimed that it would provide 160 annual apprenticeships and give training for 1,000 unemployed local people every year.
But it has now emerged that just 105 apprentices studied at the centre between 2010 and 2012.
And there were only 91 apprentices and funded learners living in postcodes entirely or partly in Waltham Forest during that time - 19 per cent of the total.
It comes just months after a council panel was set up to investigate failures of the authority's unemployment programme Worknet, which also failed to hit its targets.
Part of Worknet included a partnership with the National Construction College organisation, which was awarded the contract to run the centre by the council.
 
wfcwThis is a personal blog, which aims to scrutinise the powers that be in Waltham Forest, from the Council (hereafter London Borough of Waltham Forest or LBWF), both elected members and staff; to our MP... http://www.walthamforestmatters.org.uk/
Knife crime in Waltham Forest: a nasty little scandal
   
wfcw ‘Our Olympics': (3) The National Construction College’s Cathall Rd. facility
Nick Tiratsoo
April 10, 2015
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The National Construction College’s facility in Cathall Rd., on the Leyton-Leytonstone border, was presented by LBWF as the jewel in the crown of Waltham Forest’s Olympic legacy. Looking like a super IKEA, looming over the surrounding buildings, and hyped by every Labour hack from Cathall Councillor Terry Wheeler to the Leader himself, here was something, the patter ran, that was really going to impact on local people’s lives, and in particular dramatically diminish worklessness.
Today, the Construction Academy is virtually forgotten, and the rumour is that it will soon close. Locals hope that it becomes a real IKEA, but the likelihood is that it will be replaced by boxy flats.
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UPDATE
Olympic legacy training centre'Borough residents offered free construction courses
23 August 2016
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Free courses are being made available to Waltham Forest residents looking to improve their skills and find employment in the construction sector.
The training scheme is being provided by the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) and run at the National Construction College, supported by Waltham Forest Council.
Courses available include an introduction to dry lining, an introduction to brickwork, site safety supervisor training and a CIRSS operative training scheme.
The courses are open to Waltham Forest residents over the age of 18, and no prior qualifications are needed. Proof of residency in the borough will be required.
Waltham Forest council cabinet member for economic growth, Cllr Clare Coghill, said: “These free courses are a great way to develop some of the skills needed in order to embark on a successful career in the construction industry.
wfcwWhy can't Britain build enough homes to meet demand?
11 August 2015
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The UK is in the grip of a housing crisis. In London in particular, entire developments containing hundreds of flats are often sold before construction has even begun.
The failure to build enough homes means that millions of people are stuck renting when they would rather be living in a home they own.
The housing charity Shelter says the shortage is "enormously damaging, socially as well as economically" and is forcing a quarter of those aged under 35 to stay living with their parents.
Just 125,110 homes were built in England in the year to March, according to government figures. That is about half as many needed to keep up with demand, and the problem is compounded every year.
Why can't Britain build enough homes to meet demand?
   
wfcwBank of England's Mark Carney highlights housing market's risk to UK economy
UK housing market has 'deep, deep structural problems', says governor, and there is little the Bank can do
The real problem lay in the shortage of homes – with the UK building half the number of new homes that were being built in his native Canada, despite a much bigger population. Tthere are not sufficient houses built in the UK.
18 May 2014
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wfcwThe Guardian, 5th March 2013, reports both Council and the National Construction College blaming the economic downturn for the poor performance of the Leytonstone Skills Academy in providing training to unemployed local people.

LBWFmdj says...
1:34pm Tue 5 Mar 13
Construction training is a huge and vital problem with wide economic effects. Unfortunately, it belongs on that long list of problems to which most of us would not think of Waltham Forest Council as being the likely source of a solution.
   
Worknet, O'Regen, Kennedy Scott and Reed Comments
Olympic legacy training centre''Economy to blame' for poor performance of construction training centre in Leytonstone
5th March 2013
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The poor performance of a construction training centre hailed as an Olympic legacy for Waltham Forest has been blamed on the economic downturn by the council.
Last week it was revealed that the Cathall Road National Skills Academy in Leytonstone has failed to provide the promised number of annual apprenticeships for local people.
The authority has been unable to provide figures for how many of the total trainees are from Waltham Forest, but said only 19 per cent of apprentices and funded learners were from the borough.
In a statement to the Guardian, the council's cabinet member for economic development, Cllr Mark Rusling, admitted the apprenticeship figure was "disappointing" but said he was confident people would benefit from the centre in future.
Comments(3)
SXH says...
1:13pm Tue 5 Mar 13
More excuses, put the blame elswhere as always, nothing surprises me with Cllr Afzal Akram involved, the unemployment live on promises.
Once again well done NT

mdj says...
1:34pm Tue 5 Mar 13
Was it not Cllr Mark Rusling who presided over the disastrous Leyton Olympia Market, for which he made extravagant claims on the Council's behalf, and then ran for cover, denying all responsibility for the fiasco?
If the downturn in the economy is to blame, does he not realise how this argument discredits a predict-and-provide public sector model for construction training?
If the construction industry trained its own staff (under the appropriate tax regime), numbers in training would be kept in line with known demand, at no public expense. We have already found that many of the low-level training certificates issued by this centre are normally dealt with in-house by employers.
For higher skills, we are often found scrounging on the superior training procedures of poorer countries, a grotesque and humiliating situation.
Construction training is a huge and vital problem with wide economic effects. Unfortunately, it belongs on that long list of problems to which most of us would not think of Waltham Forest Council as being the likely source of a solution.

Cornbeefur says...
3:34pm Tue 5 Mar 13
After the even blame all and sundry. It appeared miles late anyhow and is another example of NO LEGACY and a complete waste of monies.
Labour waste again!


The Guardian, 5th March 2013, reports both Council and the National Construction College blaming the economic downturn for the poor performance of the Leytonstone Skills Academy in providing training to unemployed local people.

mdj says...
1:34pm Tue 5 Mar 13
Construction training is a huge and vital problem with wide economic effects. Unfortunately, it belongs on that long list of problems to which most of us would not think of Waltham Forest Council as being the likely source of a solution.
WFGuardianCouncil has admitted long-term failings to help unemployed in Waltham Forest.
17th January 2013
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Organisations contracted to deliver the scheme often blamed the council for failing to provide adequate support. Despite a large investment over a number of years Worknet has repeatedly failed to meet targets, often helping only a fraction of the people it was supposed to.
Comments(1)
Techno3 says...
12:22pm Thu 17 Jan 13
I have never understood how Reed manage to get so much government work. Their actual ownership is very obscure and their track record pretty mediocre. Trying to trace the real owners among the multiplicity of corportate entitites they deploy in their suspiciously complex corporate structure is very difficult indeed.
WFGuardianHackney Council may take its own legal action against some of those involved in a collapsed charity O-Regen after police abandoned a criminal investigation into alleged fraud at the organisation. [1]
11th January 2013
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O-Regen, also known as Orient Regeneration, had close ties to Waltham Forest Council and owned a number of community buildings in the borough, such as the Epicentre in Leytonstone.
Waltham Forest Police announced over Christmas that it had dropped the probe but Hackney Council has now said it is considering taking further action on its own.
Comments(9)
SXH says...
11:26am Fri 11 Jan 13
About time something was done, good luck.

Sam Hain says...
12:32pm Fri 11 Jan 13
I wonder if Cllr Davis is now mulling over the old adage "be careful what you wish for"?

Trevor 2 says...
2:36pm Fri 11 Jan 13
I foresee another whitewash!

NT says...
5:18pm Fri 11 Jan 13
Just to be clear, between 2003-04 and 2011-12, LBWF paid O-Regen £2,144,147 in some 3,500 separate transactions, which covered everything from rent for training facilities, to the ill-fated Youth At Risk programme (for this see the Independent Panel report), to Team Leyton, to the NRF/BNI.

LBWF payments to O-Regen for Worknet were a subset in these transfers, with the contracts worth £1.3m, but actual payments worth only a fraction of that (because of under-performance).

The LBWF spokesperson is typically vague about which particular contract the Council is allegedly considering taking legal action over, but I would suggest that the fifth and largest Worknet contract is a good place to start, because the allegations about double-counting here were well documented, and reached the ears of several officers and at least one portfolio holder.

But I suppose that the most interesting question concerns who or what will be the defendant in the action. O-Regen is defunct, so no case there. Trustees will claim managers misled them, and anyway will LBWF want to risk the ire of the local 'great and good'? Ex-O-Regen managers might be a possibility, but they will claim - with some justification - that LBWF knew very well what was going on and did little about it, or even encouraged it, the the contracts were anyway vague as to target outputs, promised LBWF support was not forthcoming, etc., etc.

So its difficult not to believe that this is just bluster, designed to distract attention away from the fundamental fact that a Labour-run Council mismanaged a £9m. programme for the unemployed, yet still ended up quids in - because large amounts of un-spent Worknet funding ended up in the Council's reserves, and may then have been spent on absolutely anything...

PS You might be wondering about payments prior to 2003-04: they are apparently too difficult to itemise, at least when responding to a mere peasant such as myself.

NT says...
5:21pm Fri 11 Jan 13
Apologies: in para 3 line one it should be 'The council spokesperson'.

SXH says...
6:34pm Fri 11 Jan 13
well said NT

Techno3 says...
9:31pm Fri 11 Jan 13
Once again, NT, you show why your unawarded knighthood to services to this borough is long overdue.

SXH says...
12:00am Sat 12 Jan 13
Techno3 wrote:
Once again, NT, you show why your unawarded knighthood to services to this borough is long overdue.
I agree for what he has done over the years i have known him.

barbus44 says...
4:39pm Sat 12 Jan 13
Techno3 wrote:
Once again, NT, you show why your unawarded knighthood to services to this borough is long overdue.
Pity we can't say the same about the troll!


NT says...
5:18pm Fri 11 Jan 13
Just to be clear, between 2003-04 and 2011-12, LBWF paid O-Regen £2,144,147 in some 3,500 separate transactions, which covered everything from rent for training facilities, to the ill-fated Youth At Risk programme (for this see the Independent Panel report), to Team Leyton, to the NRF/BNI.
But I suppose that the most interesting question concerns who or what will be the defendant in the action. O-Regen is defunct, so no case there. Trustees will claim managers misled them, and anyway will LBWF want to risk the ire of the local 'great and good'? Ex-O-Regen managers might be a possibility, but they will claim - with some justification - that LBWF knew very well what was going on and did little about it, or even encouraged it, the the contracts were anyway vague as to target outputs, promised LBWF support was not forthcoming, etc., etc.

So its difficult not to believe that this is just bluster, designed to distract attention away from the fundamental fact that a Labour-run Council mismanaged a £9m. programme for the unemployed, yet still ended up quids in - because large amounts of un-spent Worknet funding ended up in the Council's reserves, and may then have been spent on absolutely anything...

WFGuardian Probe dropped into 'fraud' at O-Regen charity with close ties to Waltham Forest Council [1]
27th December 2012
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An investigation into alleged fraud at a charity with close ties to Waltham Forest Council has been dropped by police.
The Met launched the probe into the O-Regen group, also known as Orient Regeneration, in May 2011 following "specific" allegations made by concerned officials at Hackney Council.
O-Regen owned a number of community facilities such as the Epicentre in Leytonstone and had been awarded contracts worth over £1million by Waltham Forest Council for unemployment schemes in recent years.
It was then plunged into financial difficulties and the council stepped in to try and help, but the charity went into administration just before police launched their probe.
More comments(16)

mdj says...
1:38pm Thu 27 Dec 12
A quiet, wet day after Boxing Day, with the nation in deepest hibernation. One imagines that in organisations all over the country there are press officers on overtime, sitting at their desks with curling turkey sandwiches and a stop-watch, poised to announce the bad news at the moment most finely calculated to cause the least stir.
Please, please, let this not be the end of this story! It's the symbol of so much that is wrong with this Council, and public governance in general.

The phrase 'We're all in this together' has a particularly toxic resonance in this context: the 'We' of the people sitting on the committees being a rather different 'We' from the weary punters picking up the tab yet again.

cynicalsue says...
1:58pm Thu 27 Dec 12
'A good day to bury bad news'. Well done LBWF, you have succeeded again

SXH says...
2:13pm Thu 27 Dec 12
Yet another cover-up by WF

NT says...
4:28pm Thu 27 Dec 12
I think that this shows how difficult it is to establish fraud beyond reasonable doubt (always accepting that the Met tried).

It is a fact that both LBWF officers, and the Cabinet portfolio holder, believed O-Regen was involved in ‘double counting’ of staff and clients, said so, and committed their apprehensions to paper.

Yet the truth is also that O-Regen's paperwork was in such a chaotic mess that is was extremely difficult to establish exactly what double counting was going on where - crucial, obviously, to establishing a watertight case.

The real villains of the piece in my view are all those who were responsible for the original slip-shod contracts and the wholly inadequate level of subsequent monitoring - and that includes not just the Council but also, as I now learn, several government departments, which shoveled the money out but then hardly raised a finger to check how it was being spent.

From the standpoint of today, such irresponsible largesse seems almost incomprehensible, but I believe that for much of the 2000s it was, if not the norm, then nearly so.

It would be nice to believe that lessons have been learnt, but even that seems doubtful.

All in all, it’s a sorry tale.

SXH says...
5:02pm Thu 27 Dec 12
Totally agree with you NT

SXH says...
11:57am Fri 28 Dec 12
SpursSupporter1 maybe we can all join you

Sam Hain says...
1:33pm Fri 28 Dec 12
"The offence of fraud could not be made out due to the content of the contract between Hackney and O-Regen." Surely no contract is so impenetrable that the facts cannot be established if the will exists to do so. What are forensic audits for? The Met's bland statement raises far more questions that it answers but will no doubt be trotted out on all sides from now on as the perfect excuse not to have to answer them. No-one, on any side, comes out of this lamentable fiasco with their integrity intact.

mdj says...
2:22pm Fri 28 Dec 12
' Surely no contract is so impenetrable that the facts cannot be established if the will exists to do so...'
Seconded, Sam: even if paperwork doesn't exist, surely the bank records do?
And when the Council sets up a project or delegates a task, does it not nominate a specific person to be responsible for implementation of that project, and accounting for the monies spent?
Surely it should be automatic that,. when the figures don't add up, someone gets the chop, who knows in advance where the buck stops?
Why did it take Hackney to raise concerns about the misspending of this borough's (ie, our) money?

It's been disquieting the last few years to see the cosy relationship between council and police in this borough. Who agreed to provide Cllr Loakes with eight officers to close down a harmless takeaway, in the same week an officer was killed in this borough, and noone has been accused? Why all the vacuous awards the public sector hand out at big dinners to one another, for doing what most of us would simply regard as 'doing the job'?

NT says...
5:36pm Fri 28 Dec 12
Sorry, guys, this is Waltham Forest.

Of course many contracts are impenetrable, especially after the event - that is if they even exist in normal form in the first place.

And as to the idea that there is one person in charge, that is also a non-starter: in all of these programmes, the management capability is small compared to the workload, while high staff turnover and longstanding vacancies (even where posts are senior) further complicate matters.

As to LBWF forensic (or not) auditors, one was called in on the big O-Regen Worknet contract, and duly committed a series of devastating criticisms to paper. At a subsequent meeting, the Cabinet portfolio holder terminated the contract (with notice!) but then unambiguously indicated he was ready to work with O-Regen again in the following year.

How do you think that auditor felt?

Thats the problem you have when leadership is poor or introverted: decent council officers get marginalised, demoralised, or both, and in the end leave.

And as to why lessons are nor learnt, why should they be? Is Mr Robbins under threat? Is the government interested in intervening? Is the electorate bothered? No, no, and no.

Tom Thumb says...
8:19pm Fri 28 Dec 12
mdj wrote:
A quiet, wet day after Boxing Day, with the nation in deepest hibernation. One imagines that in organisations all over the country there are press officers on overtime, sitting at their desks with curling turkey sandwiches and a stop-watch, poised to announce the bad news at the moment most finely calculated to cause the least stir.
Please, please, let this not be the end of this story! It's the symbol of so much that is wrong with this Council, and public governance in general.

The phrase 'We're all in this together' has a particularly toxic resonance in this context: the 'We' of the people sitting on the committees being a rather different 'We' from the weary punters picking up the tab yet again.
Spot on, mdj.

Tom Thumb says...
8:25pm Fri 28 Dec 12
NT wrote:
Sorry, guys, this is Waltham Forest.

Of course many contracts are impenetrable, especially after the event - that is if they even exist in normal form in the first place.

And as to the idea that there is one person in charge, that is also a non-starter: in all of these programmes, the management capability is small compared to the workload, while high staff turnover and longstanding vacancies (even where posts are senior) further complicate matters.

As to LBWF forensic (or not) auditors, one was called in on the big O-Regen Worknet contract, and duly committed a series of devastating criticisms to paper. At a subsequent meeting, the Cabinet portfolio holder terminated the contract (with notice!) but then unambiguously indicated he was ready to work with O-Regen again in the following year.

How do you think that auditor felt?

Thats the problem you have when leadership is poor or introverted: decent council officers get marginalised, demoralised, or both, and in the end leave.

And as to why lessons are nor learnt, why should they be? Is Mr Robbins under threat? Is the government interested in intervening? Is the electorate bothered? No, no, and no.
I'm afraid part of the problem is that most of the population of Waltham Forest doesn't read the local paper or this website and is blissfully unaware of the true state of things.
The Robbins rabble know very well that old tribal loyalties ensure that voters will turn out in sufficient numbers to re-elect most if not all Labour councillors.
There is also a problem with the lack of any serious opposition in this borough. Neither the Tories nor the Lib Dems have much credibility.
The lack of proportional representation in the voting system ensures that fringe parties of the left or right don't get a look in. And anyone standing as an independent doesn't stand much of a chance when so many sheep will unthinkingly turn out to vote for the three main parties.

SXH says...
10:35pm Fri 28 Dec 12
mdj wrote:
' Surely no contract is so impenetrable that the facts cannot be established if the will exists to do so...' Seconded, Sam: even if paperwork doesn't exist, surely the bank records do? And when the Council sets up a project or delegates a task, does it not nominate a specific person to be responsible for implementation of that project, and accounting for the monies spent? Surely it should be automatic that,. when the figures don't add up, someone gets the chop, who knows in advance where the buck stops? Why did it take Hackney to raise concerns about the misspending of this borough's (ie, our) money? It's been disquieting the last few years to see the cosy relationship between council and police in this borough. Who agreed to provide Cllr Loakes with eight officers to close down a harmless takeaway, in the same week an officer was killed in this borough, and noone has been accused? Why all the vacuous awards the public sector hand out at big dinners to one another, for doing what most of us would simply regard as 'doing the job'?
mdj interesting comment here
" even if paperwork doesn't exist, surely the bank records do?"
banks hold details of all transactions in/out if there is no record of where the monies was spent then surely its fraud?

Thunderbird4 says...
12:54pm Sat 29 Dec 12
In 2007, government inspectors found schemes to bring the unemployed back into work, were more costly, than if the unemployed were just left to sign on. After all, if there was work, they would have been sent to it from the jobcentre. The Back to Work schemes cost the taxpayer millions, with no effect on unemployment.

Walthamster says...
11:36am Mon 31 Dec 12
This story and all the comments on it are relevant. The police MUST persevere, using bank records, forensic auditing and whatever else it takes. Waltham Forest has been getting away with laziness and negligence at best, costing us millions.
This is the closest we've come to getting a prosecution.
Don't give up!

ruby newbie says...
11:34pm Mon 31 Dec 12
wow 14 comments on this one and not one from cornbeefer......

Mohammed f Christ says...
9:51pm Tue 1 Jan 13
He can't currently comment; as all the facts are not available.


mdj says...
1:38pm Thu 27 Dec 12
A quiet, wet day after Boxing Day, with the nation in deepest hibernation. One imagines that in organisations all over the country there are press officers on overtime, sitting at their desks with curling turkey sandwiches and a stop-watch, poised to announce the bad news at the moment most finely calculated to cause the least stir.
Please, please, let this not be the end of this story! It's the symbol of so much that is wrong with this Council, and public governance in general.
The phrase 'We're all in this together' has a particularly toxic resonance in this context: the 'We' of the people sitting on the committees being a rather different 'We' from the weary punters picking up the tab yet again.
WFGuardianPanel to investigate 'failures' of unemployment scheme in Waltham Forest
12th December 2012
read ...
A New panel is to investigate the apparent failures of a multi-million pound council scheme to tackle unemployment in Waltham Forest. It emerged earlier this summer that companies hired to provide services under the flagship Worknet project fell well short of targets, often helping only a fraction of the people they had pledged to. But the organisations often blamed the council for failing to provide adequate support for schemes. Worknet involved contracts worth about £9million in total, but some companies only received a fraction of that due to poor performance.
Now the council's Overview and Scrutiny management committee has established a panel of three councillors who will examine what, if anything, went wrong. It includes Conservative councillor John Moss, Labour's Cllr Saima Mahmood and Liberal Democrat Cllr Bob Sullivan.
Comments(18)
mdj says...
2:50pm Wed 12 Dec 12
Let us assume that we are looking at a failure of good intentions.
Waltham Forest is one of the top ten areas for unemployment in the country, although only a short commute from the centre of the worlds' financial capital, and situated in one of the world's top ten economies.
Throwing another £9 million at a regime that presides over this mismatch cannot be the solution, except for the lucky recipients of the budget.
The most promising type of start-up in this borough would seem to be an employment-creation agency!

Has the council ever thought of asking businesses what are their main deterrents to taking on staff or premises in this borough? I'm willing to bet that council policy will lie at the heart of most of their responses.

It's notable that self-employment is never mentioned in the context of these job-creation programmes: there is a lot of work that people need doing, for which they do not want the commitment of creating a full-time post with all its obligations. But these schemes are run by people who work in hierarchies, with tiers of management, holiday entitlements and pension plans. Few have ever started their own business with a clapped-out van and a bag of tools: the required mindset is missing to understand what creates employment. A senior councillor recently was heard to lament the number of pound-a-bowl stalls in his locality, saying he wanted to crack down on them!

We have to learn that security is a myth, but that opportunity is infinite. Work is not created by job-seekers.

Isaythat says...
3:47pm Wed 12 Dec 12
How very true! Having read this article, I am not at all surprised the council have not commented......how can they? what plausable comment can they make?.
Let us hope it doesn't take the three councillors long to realise for any policy to work, there needs to be jobs first. How about encouraging large businesses into the area? Giving them genuine financial incentives to come here would be a step nearer to a long term solution.

Techno3 says...
4:19pm Wed 12 Dec 12
Isaythat wrote:
How very true! Having read this article, I am not at all surprised the council have not commented......how can they? what plausable comment can they make?.
Let us hope it doesn't take the three councillors long to realise for any policy to work, there needs to be jobs first. How about encouraging large businesses into the area? Giving them genuine financial incentives to come here would be a step nearer to a long term solution.
Large businesses do come into the area. Unfortunately, they are mainly betting shops and payday loan companies who are financially strip-mining this community for as much money as they can and sucking it out of the local economy.

We do need large businesses and small businesses; the council needs to look to its own policies to remove all those policies which are discouraging businesses from investing. They could also stop outsourcing so many of their activities and purchasing to firms which are not local and think more seriously about giving small local local businesses a chance to shine. When the Queen visited us in the summer who got the catering contract for instance? It was not a local firm. What an opportunity for someone that was missed.

leyton_man says...
5:26pm Wed 12 Dec 12
I can imagine why this scheme has failed if it involves Waltham Forest Council, I'm sure some of their friends made a few bob though.
Quite why the jobs need to be local though puzzles me, I used to travel all over london to work.
There must be a more serious issue if you can't find employment in the UK's largest city.

Sam Hain says...
6:33pm Wed 12 Dec 12
So agree with mdj on this one. And, along with supporting sole traders in starting up, let's look at co-operatives and social enterprises. The Council's new Social Enterprise Network is a good start but it needs to be heavily promoted and involve more than just warm words. The fortunes big private companies like A4E have made from the misery of unemployment, whilst doing little or nothing to alleviate it, is a national scandal of major proportions.

Techno3 says...
6:54pm Wed 12 Dec 12
Sam Hain wrote:
So agree with mdj on this one. And, along with supporting sole traders in starting up, let's look at co-operatives and social enterprises. The Council's new Social Enterprise Network is a good start but it needs to be heavily promoted and involve more than just warm words. The fortunes big private companies like A4E have made from the misery of unemployment, whilst doing little or nothing to alleviate it, is a national scandal of major proportions.
Sadly Sam, the words 'The Council's New Social Enterprise Network' simply make my heart sink.

How about the council simply doing the simple things well? They could try making it possible for customers to park near existing local firms without driving up peoples' stress levels and transaction costs so far no-one can actually afford to do any business here?

Don't Give Up says...
8:40pm Wed 12 Dec 12
Let us hope the 3 scrutiny councillors have been provided with all the appropriate documentation to reach a true and proper decision. I say this as there is always the possibility some may have gone missing or sitting alongside the 5,000 bags of files affected by the asbestos contamination in the basement of the Town Hall.

Sam Hain says...
9:07pm Wed 12 Dec 12
So Cllr Moss is on the panel. I note that the now defunct O-Regen offered "free employment and training services". If Cllr Moss wants to get to the root of expensive failure in this regard he could do worse than to his own Group Leader.

Sam Hain says...
9:08pm Wed 12 Dec 12
PS: Missing words: speak to

SXH says...
10:15pm Wed 12 Dec 12
Another to add to the boroughs list

mdj says...
11:25pm Wed 12 Dec 12
'Quite why the jobs need to be local though puzzles me, I used to travel all over london to work'

So did I, and hated it! What a waste of life and output 3 hours a day in traffic is!

It's a question of what proportion of the borough have to leave each day to go to work: our transport infrastructure is incapable of physical capacity improvement, and yet we are building more homes. This will either create more commuters, or more claimants. Neither add what they could to the local economy, or social fabric.
If you read this very long, interesting and candid council document,

http://www.walthamfo
rest.gov.uk/document
s/lbwf-local-economi
c-asssessment.pdf,

it shows among other things that the GLA foresee an outward-moving trend in employment in coming years. This is hopeful, because commuting isn't about to get easier or cheaper.
But the Councils' response is to make unavailable for job creation any site in this borough that those jobs might hope to move to! I bet every new home built here in the last ten years has been on the site of a former workplace; even a pub or petrol station provides half a dozen jobs.

One catch with such a report is that it perpetuates in councils the delusion that because they have the figures, they must have the answers too! Yet planning, rating and parking policies must form the main impediments to opening a business here.
The simple fact that the Council is relaxing parking controls for the Christmas period means they know that their policies for the rest of the year deter business activity.

So, if they knowingly follow policies that stifle prosperity, what game are they playing?

NT says...
10:02am Thu 13 Dec 12
I think there are some misconceptions floating around here.

Worknet (as predecessor programmes like NRF and BNI) was in theory a sensible idea. It offered training in job readiness, targeted support, and ready access to job opportunities, and it did so in a way that brought the different agencies in the field together, and delivered in localities, so that residents could get the service on their doorsteps, and not have to travel to distant centers (a big plus given the prevalence of post-code wars).

What undermined the programme was those old LBWF weaknesses – inadequate staffing, poor procurement, insufficient monitoring, political interference, and failure to learn from mistakes.

The whole sorry story is summed up by the fact that though O-Regen failed to deliver with its first four programmes, LBWF then offered it a further much bigger contract – which it predictably failed to deliver too.

The most damning element of the story, however, as I have repeatedly pointed out, is how little of the money which the Council was awarded by central government et al, was used for its intended purposes.

I have looked at two contracts in detail.

These had a book value of £4,233,259 (roughly half the total for the whole programme). Of this sum,
• the contractors received a mere £267,705 (or 6 per cent) (because they were inept and paid by results);
• £481,773 (or 11 per cent) was passed on to successor projects;
• £1,546,249 (or 37 per cent) was fed into the council’s reserves and general fund; and
• an astonishing £1,937,532 (46 per cent) was never claimed from the funders.

Quite clearly, those in the Council who took the decisions about Worknet, and failed to heed the clear warnings that emerged as the programme blundered on, have some explaining to do.

citize17 says...
10:47am Thu 13 Dec 12
As an unemployed person I am not suprised Worknet is under scrutiny. I tried several times to register with them, once before a public holiday, to be told they were winding down and would be fully functioning after it, another when I visited thier office to be told they only register people on a tuesday morning, got there about 10.00am the following tuesday told I was too late and the registering was finished.Also they spent alot of time shoving people around to various sub-agencies. If you only have 10 people on your books and 9 of them get jobs you have a 90% sucess rate.

Techno3 says...
11:27am Thu 13 Dec 12
citize17 wrote:
As an unemployed person I am not suprised Worknet is under scrutiny. I tried several times to register with them, once before a public holiday, to be told they were winding down and would be fully functioning after it, another when I visited thier office to be told they only register people on a tuesday morning, got there about 10.00am the following tuesday told I was too late and the registering was finished.Also they spent alot of time shoving people around to various sub-agencies. If you only have 10 people on your books and 9 of them get jobs you have a 90% sucess rate.
You would be doing everyone and the councillors a big favour if you made sure they are aware of your experiences.

Isaythat says...
1:06pm Thu 13 Dec 12
citize17 wrote:
As an unemployed person I am not suprised Worknet is under scrutiny. I tried several times to register with them, once before a public holiday, to be told they were winding down and would be fully functioning after it, another when I visited thier office to be told they only register people on a tuesday morning, got there about 10.00am the following tuesday told I was too late and the registering was finished.Also they spent alot of time shoving people around to various sub-agencies. If you only have 10 people on your books and 9 of them get jobs you have a 90% sucess rate.
I am left open mouthed at your comment. It is appauling to think this happened to you and your experience must be passed on to Conservative councillor John Moss, Labour's Cllr Saima Mahmood and Liberal Democrat Cllr Bob Sullivan. I suggest you cc as many people above them too, in all your communication, to be sure it cannot be 'lost' under a pile of similar paperwork.

Walthamster says...
3:28pm Thu 13 Dec 12
citize17 wrote:
As an unemployed person I am not suprised Worknet is under scrutiny. I tried several times to register with them, once before a public holiday, to be told they were winding down and would be fully functioning after it, another when I visited thier office to be told they only register people on a tuesday morning, got there about 10.00am the following tuesday told I was too late and the registering was finished.Also they spent alot of time shoving people around to various sub-agencies. If you only have 10 people on your books and 9 of them get jobs you have a 90% sucess rate.
Your story makes me furious. Please do send it to the three councillors on the scrutiny committee and also to your MP. It sounds as if the whole thing was a con trick.

NT says...
3:41pm Thu 13 Dec 12
It is regrettably true that – as a host of Freedom of Information Act depositions now show - citize17's experiences are much closer to the norm than an exception.

It is also true that, until a couple of weeks ago, very few Councillors showed any interest in Worknet, and the Council itself has been less than forthcoming in answering legitimate inquiries.

In fact it is only coverage in the WF Guardian that has kept the story going - see in particular

http://www.guardian-
series.co.uk/your_lo
cal_areas/9614564.WA
LTHAM_FOREST__Counci
l_leadership_slammed
_over_charity_contra
cts/

http://www.guardian-
series.co.uk/your_lo
cal_areas/9733243.WA
LTHAM_FOREST__Eviden
ce_emerges_of_furthe
r_jobs_failings/

http://www.guardian-
series.co.uk/your_lo
cal_areas/9887170.WA
LTHAM_FOREST__Furthe
r_concern_over_help_
for_jobless/

In conversation, some Councillors have told me that, because of the way that the Leader and his close allies structure decision-making, they ‘don’t know what’s going on in Waltham Forest’.

Without being unkind, I often wonder if they really ask?

SXH says...
6:02pm Thu 13 Dec 12
Good point there NT i dont think they ask after my experiances with some.


NT says...
10:02am Thu 13 Dec 12
Worknet (as predecessor programmes like NRF and BNI) was in theory a sensible idea. It offered training in job readiness, targeted support, and ready access to job opportunities, and it did so in a way that brought the different agencies in the field together, and delivered in localities, so that residents could get the service on their doorsteps, and not have to travel to distant centers (a big plus given the prevalence of post-code wars).
What undermined the programme was those old LBWF weaknesses – inadequate staffing, poor procurement, insufficient monitoring, political interference, and failure to learn from mistakes.
The whole sorry story is summed up by the fact that though O-Regen failed to deliver with its first four programmes, LBWF then offered it a further much bigger contract – which it predictably failed to deliver too.
The most damning element of the story, however, as I have repeatedly pointed out, is how little of the money which the Council was awarded by central government et al, was used for its intended purposes.
WFGuardianFurther concern over help for jobless
22nd August 2012

read ...
Evidence has emerged of ongoing failures to tackle unemployment in Waltham Forest. Research has shown that companies hired to provide services under the flagship Worknet program often helping only a fraction of the people they had pledged to. Other organisations blamed for failing to provide adequate support are:
Charity O-Regen, broke promises to tackle long-term joblessness.
Kennedy Scott fell well short of targets on two contracts worth more than £3 million.
Reed in Partnership failed to meet any of its delivery targets

The council is now said to be withholding information on the delivery of the latest figures, citing commercial interests.
Research carried out by Nick Tiratsoo, of Odessa Road, Leytonstone, has exposed the long-term failure to tackle unemployment in Waltham Forest.
Comments(2)
mdj says...
5:03pm Wed 22 Aug 12
One somehow imagines this won't be mentioned in the Council's free paper. No comment, even from opposition Councillors! What are they good for?
What can we do? Either our money gets handed over to private companies that are not fit for purpose, or it disappears into the pockets of a failed - and possibly worse - Council.
Is it Waltham Forest's cunning plan to pay for the unfunded Big6 events by trousering this funding stream?
When one recalls that the Big6 were staged by the Co-op, a major funder of the deeply-indebted Labour Party, a toxic money-go-round becomes visible, paid for at the expense of local unemployed people.

Walthamster says...
11:06am Fri 24 Aug 12
"Research carried out by Nick Tiratsoo ... has exposed the long-term failure to tackle unemployment in Waltham Forest."

But why is this essential research left to a member of the public? Every scandal uncovered in Waltham Forest has been dug out by a few dedicated local residents, in their own time, without pay. I'm grateful to them and to the WF Guardian for publicising their work.

But even when handed this information on a plate, no one in the council or other authority takes any action.

We have 60 councillors in Waltham Forest, all paid to represent our interests. I have contacted them about several issues over the years and most don't even bother to reply (breaking their own official code of conduct -- but again, there's never any penalty).

Why does it take to make our paid representatives do their job?


mdj says...
5:03pm Wed 22 Aug 12
One somehow imagines this won't be mentioned in the Council's free paper. No comment, even from opposition Councillors! What are they good for?
What can we do? Either our money gets handed over to private companies that are not fit for purpose, or it disappears into the pockets of a failed - and possibly worse - Council.
Cllr Mark RuslingNew employment-boosting measures announced.
18 September 2012:
read ...
Cllr Mark Rusling, cabinet member for economic development, has announced new measures starting early next year to try and tackle the issue, including a jobs and skills partnership to forge closer links between employers and schools.

Cllr Rusling said: "We want to offer almost a lifetime service, where we see people go into school at the age of four or five, and we help them acquire the key skills until they are in work, and even after to train for new opportunities.
"The key thing around youth unemployment is skills. If you sort out that you'll get young people into jobs. Obviously schools have a role to play around literacy and numeracy, but in too many areas there's a disconnect between what happens at school and work. I want to close that gap.
"We'll do a lot more employer engagement so we can make sure young people have the skills employers are looking for. We also want to encourage businesses to take on apprentices."
Comments(3)
mdj says...
6:35pm Tue 18 Sep 12
'Waltham Forest has the highest proportion of unemployed young people in London, at 10.3 per cent, and is in the top ten councils in the UK for unemployment, with 16.1 claimants for every vacancy.'

Reducing unemployment is not a Council's area of expertise, to put it kindly.
What they can do is desist from stifling economic enterprise within the borough. The biggest thing they can do is stop, and reverse, the constant loss of workplaces to housing.The public transport infrastructure, and still more the roads, are incapable of improvement, so further housebuilding dooms future residents to become longer and longer-range commuters, or else benefit claimants. The growth of private landlordism is seeing the development of what are virtually privatised council estates, which are built to a low quality so that their tenants would never aspire to own them, even if they had the money.
The Council did not cause the trends, and perverse planning and rating incentives, that are producing these results, but they should have the intelligence not to boost them.
As it is, they are building unemployment into the borough. Who might benefit politically from the growth of vote-farms of state dependents, or transients who play no part in local community politics? Some people can build successful careers out of this stagnation; and the smarter businesspeople can craft models that profit from it, especially with the benefit of inside knowledge.

G_Whiz says...
12:15am Wed 19 Sep 12
It might help if kids were told that talking street slang did not really help them get a job. Especially in the sevice sector.
It comes to something when people i know are employing Eastern Europeans because their English is better.

Nancy Taaffe says...
8:58am Wed 19 Sep 12
After slashing £64 million form the budget in 2010 the council now has 600 less jobs within it. They boosted the pay of senior managers and councillors now receive a wage for doing something that was previously considered their role. They ( all of them) are not interested in job creation, just their own jobs and careers. We can't keep voting for them and that is why The Trade Union and Socialist Coalition will be standing.


mdj says...
6:35pm Tue 18 Sep 12
'Waltham Forest has the highest proportion of unemployed young people in London, at 10.3 per cent, and is in the top ten councils in the UK for unemployment, with 16.1 claimants for every vacancy.'
Reducing unemployment is not a Council's area of expertise, to put it kindly.
What they can do is desist from stifling economic enterprise within the borough.
As it is, they are building unemployment into the borough.

Nancy Taaffe says...
8:58am Wed 19 Sep 12
After slashing £64 million form the budget in 2010 the council now has 600 less jobs within it. They boosted the pay of senior managers and councillors now receive a wage for doing something that was previously considered their role. They ( all of them) are not interested in job creation, just their own jobs and careers.
WFGuardianEvidence emerges of further jobs failings
29th May 2012
read
Failed charity O-Regen, which had close ties to the authority, broke promises to tackle long-term joblessness before going into financial meltdown last year.
Now research has shown that firm Kennedy Scott, specialist job brokerage services for workless residents in Waltham Forest, fell well short of targets on two contracts worth more than £3 million.
What it fails to mention is that the contracts were terminated early because the firm was unable to deliver.
Figures show that after being awarded the contracts in mid-2010, Kennedy Scott had only registered 28 clients by August, rather than the contract target of 128. It also failed to place a single person into work.
In December 2010, council auditor David Blight reported partnership issues between O-Regen and Kennedy Scott, which included lots of discrepancies and a lot of files found to be below the required standard. A cabinet report in August 2011 states that, despite having a target of placing 61 people a month into work, Kennedy Scott in three months only helped 27 people start a job.
Nick Tiratsoo, whose research uncovered failings in tackling unemployment in the borough, said: “Local Labour politicians continually tell us that they are concerned about ‘worklessness’, and accept it is one of the root causes of the borough’s gang problem. Yet the Kennedy Scott programmes were a miserable failure, just like those run by O-Regen.
“The only losers were the youngsters who most needed help. The more that emerges about Worknet, the more it looks like another BNI, a fiasco of poor management and waste.”
Comments(9)
Sam Hain says...
7:43pm Tue 29 May 12
Not just Council contractors, what about the government's withdrawal of the contract from A4E (Action for Employment) in the South East? A4E's sub-contractor for the Work Programme in Waltham Forest and Newham, Employment First, used to hold its sessions with clients in Waltham Forest, referred to it mandatorily by JobCentre Plus, in Leyton Business Centre (LMO) but recently had to centralise their services in High Road, Stratford, in order to save money. This has had the effect of forcing Work Programme clients (those unemployed for over two years) resident in Waltham Forest to travel to Stratford - not so bad, perhaps, for those living in Leyton but what about those in Chingford? Add to this the fact that prime contractors and their sub-contractors are paid by results - which either means getting people into work (increasingly unlikely given the current economy) or coercing them to sign off in order to massage the figures - and the scene is set for a disaster. With over a million young people unemployed, what's the point of dragooning older people who've worked all their adult lives but been made redundant through no fault of their own or people with little or no work experience, complex issues and/or low self-esteem through this humiliating process, almost akin to the old workhouse system. It's a cruel, chaotic, inefficient and patently unfair regime which doesn't benefit clients one iota and is only set up to generate private profit (and apparently not even doing that very well). I wonder if any research has been carried out into the effect on those who lose benefit for not complying and end up turning to crime as the only means of survival. The whole system stinks and needs a root-and-branch review. Perhaps one of our local MPs who is also Secretary of State for Work & Employment, Iain Duncan Smith, would care to comment?

NT says...
8:16pm Tue 29 May 12
All fair points, Sam, but getting away from the story, which is about Waltham Forest, and decisions taken, for good or for ill, solely by the local Labour Council.
Perhaps you'd like to use your undoubted influence to get the Leader, Mr Robbins, and/or MPs Ms. Creasy and Mr. Cryer to comment? And as a Labour supporter, how do you feel about these continuing revelations, because from where I stand they are anathema, contrary to everything that the party has traditionally stood for?

mdj says...
9:42pm Tue 29 May 12
It seems to be an iron rule of job creation schemes that the only jobs created are those of the job creators: unless these agents are entrepreneurs, who can identify unthought-of gaps in the market, and select and/or train people to fill those gaps, they are merely putting one person into a post that might just as well have been filled by somebody else, only for a higher overhead. Only a politician would fail to see that, I guess.
It would be good to have some numbers here: how much do these bods get paid to place someone in work? I bet most of us could identify useful work that needs doing, but it would be much easier structurally to do many tasks on a self-employed basis. Self-employment is something no party even pays lip-service to these days, which is disastrous. We also have an attitude to work for the young which stifles many great possibilities; if education from 14 onwards was flexibly scheduled over four days of the week, the young could have the many benefits of part-time income (doing many of the jobs that few of us want to do for our whole lives, but which have to be done all the same) without missing out on schooling. Gang culture grows out of a cultural retardation that is largely, if unintentionally, the by-product of state-created frameworks.

G_Whiz says...
12:21am Wed 30 May 12
" Idun nuff int'vews but i ain't got no job innit - dunno wot i doin wrong!"

Walthamster says...
1:02pm Wed 30 May 12
Good points by NT and mdj.

Is there ever a hope of this council being investigated by police or any other authority that will impose real penalties?

Sam Hain says...
7:53pm Wed 30 May 12
NT wrote:
All fair points, Sam, but getting away from the story, which is about Waltham Forest, and decisions taken, for good or for ill, solely by the local Labour Council.
Perhaps you'd like to use your undoubted influence to get the Leader, Mr Robbins, and/or MPs Ms. Creasy and Mr. Cryer to comment? And as a Labour supporter, how do you feel about these continuing revelations, because from where I stand they are anathema, contrary to everything that the party has traditionally stood for?
Influence, what influence, NT?! I'm a Labour supporter and have never made a secret of the fact but that doesn't mean I hold any sway over my elected colleagues, nor do I support or condone every action or policy of this particular Council. The continuing revelations are of course of grave concern but I'm not going to rush to judgment. You've done sterling work digging for the truth but until individuals are found guilty by a standards committee or a forensic audit or in a court of law they remain innocent in my eyes. If scrutineers, auditors, the police and CPS can't come up with evidence sound enough to secure at least a reprimand and at best a conviction then these allegations, serious as they undoubtedly are, remain just that, allegations.

Sam Hain says...
8:58pm Wed 30 May 12
mdj comments: "Gang culture grows out of a cultural retardation that is largely, if unintentionally, the by-product of state-created frameworks." Hear, hear. The infantilisation of our young people is an extraordinary phenomenon and by-product of our increasing (well, until recently anyway) wealth and longevity. Kids used to be able to leave school at 14 and start work or an apprenticeship. As the school leaving age has increased and the age of majority decreased there is a growing mismatch which must be very confusing and stressful for our young people, being expected to act as 'children' on the one hand (despite their increasingly earlier physical and sexual maturity) and responsible adults on the other. The age of majority used to be 21, now it's 18 and political parties are discussing the possibility of lowering it to 16. The age of consent is now equalised at 16 and yet there are still things that can only be done at 17 (eg driving) and 18 (eg drinking). No wonder our young people are becoming more and more alienated by a system that doesn't seem to make any sense.

NT says...
10:45pm Wed 30 May 12
Oh dear, 'Sam Hain', I’ve obviously hit a nerve regarding your links with the hierarchy. That’s the trouble with pseudonyms, they only work for so long

But leaving that aside, your remarks about the law etc. are again just muddying the water. Read the story. There is no accusation of law breaking, or of behavior likely to interest the standards committee. And a forensic auditor would be bored stiff.

The facts are pretty simple. LBWF wanted to address worklessness, and in pursuit of this aim, employed Kennedy Scott on two contracts worth several million pounds. The results were mediocre, and after roughly a year, Kennedy Scott departed, and was paid only a pittance. As yet, we don’t know what happened to the unspent money, but if the O-Regen case is anything to go by, it ended up in the council’s general fund.

Now this is hardly a happy story, I am sure you agree. No doubt various factors were to blame. But the bottom line is that your Labour colleagues were in sole control of the council at this time, so they have to accept a high degree of responsibility. What is more, they should have known better. Most of Labour’s senior figures had lived though the NRF/BNI fiasco and the Independent Panel report. They must have known about what happened with O-Regen and Worknet. They could even call upon a very good report of 2010, by consultants Scientific Knowledge, which contained plenty of sensible advice about where the programme was going wrong and how it could be improved.

In the light of this evidence, I think the words ‘a miserable failure’ are merited, and stand by my judgment that what occurred can only be seen as at odds with Labour’s traditional values.

Sam Hain says...
7:03pm Sat 2 Jun 12
No, NT, you haven't touched a raw nerve at all and, if you think my pseudonym is so transparent I challenge you to name me. I think pseudonyms are entirely respectable as they allow people greater leaway to express themselves more freely and honestly than might otherwise be the case. I would never seek to 'out' a pseudonymous poster even if I knew for a fact they were as to do so would seem to me to be mean spirited and would only serve to gag free speech. I don't disagree with much of what you say and am rather surprised by the combative tone you have suddenly adopted towards me now that you think you know my identity. In fact I don't seek to justify the unjustifiable. There have obviously been serious lapses on a number of fronts but the point I was attempting to make was that whether these were as a result of criminality or merely incompetence has yet to be adjudged and ruled on. Therefore I prefer to retain an open mind until a final verdict is reached by some qualified person or persons having examined all the evidence. On a politically partisan note, however, I would just add that, whatever the failings of the Labour Group or their senior officers, O-Regen was chaired by Cllr Matt Davis, the Leader of the Tory Group. Politics can be a dirty business and few escape being spattered when the mud flies.


Sam Hain says...
7:43pm Tue 29 May 12
I wonder if any research has been carried out into the effect on those who lose benefit for not complying and end up turning to crime as the only means of survival. The whole system stinks and needs a root-and-branch review. Perhaps one of our local MPs who is also Secretary of State for Work & Employment, Iain Duncan Smith, would care to comment?

NT says...
8:16pm Tue 29 May 12
All fair points, Sam. Perhaps you'd like to use your undoubted influence to get the Leader, Mr Robbins, and/or MPs Ms. Creasy and Mr. Cryer to comment?

mdj says...
9:42pm Tue 29 May 12
It seems to be an iron rule of job creation schemes that the only jobs created are those of the job creators

WFGuardianCouncil still silent over evidence of fraud at major charity
27th March 2012
read
Council leadership slammed over charity contracts.
The man who uncovered widespread financial failings at the town hall has said the council leadership should "hang its head in shame" after evidence of fraud emerged at a collapsed charity with close ties to the authority.
Research by Nick Tiratsoo, a community worker of Odessa Road, Leytonstone, showed rules to prevent the fraudulent use of taxpayers' money were regularly ignored by officers between 2004 and 2009.
Despite an internal review which promised to tighten procedures a independent inquiry was later launched when further evidence of malpractice emerged.
This inquiry found spending data was so poorly maintained it was not possible to prove whether millions of pounds allocated to projects to help vulnerable residents had been spent effectively.
It also found senior officers were protected from action when evidence was found that contract rules had been broken.
Despite assurances that the council had solved the problems, Mr Tiratsoo said the latest revelations about O-Regen, which collapsed last year, show nothing appears to have changed.
Comments(3)
Tom Thumb says...
1:19pm Tue 27 Mar 12
Mr Tiratsoo is a local hero for his unending efforts to uncover repeated examples of what is at best spectacular mismanagement, and at worst rank corruption, at our Town Hall.

Waltham Forest shows all the signs of being an officer-led council, with the political control which ought to be exercised by elected members non-existent.

This might just be because there are far too many weak, lazy councillors. It might be that some councillors would ask questions but are too afraid to rock the boat and be punished by being edged out of positions which bring them lavish allowances. Or it might be that some councillors are themselves implicated.

We have to hope that the police get to the bottom of the latest scandal, because it is very obvious that the truth will never emerge from officers or councillors.

mdj says...
2:05pm Tue 27 Mar 12
If Mr Akram is the guardian of vigilance and scrutiny in this borough, we are indeed in trouble. He presided over the illegalities of the box-junction in Leytonstone High Rd, and the invalid Alcohol-Free Zone, and admitted that large sums of money illegally taken from motorists had not been returned.
He has also seen nothing wrong in holding down two conflicted public-sector posts at the same time, and drawing two large salaries from them when jobs are scarce.
He has also stated on record his belief that, should the voters eject him, he should be entitled to severance pay!

It's not so much that this Council is 'officer-led', Tom Thumb, as that it's impossible to tell Cllrs and officials apart. Readers may not be aware that one department head is a former Labour Leader of the Council, that others have been close personal friends and party associates of senior Councillors, and that all too many hold down jobs in the public sector. I saw Cllr Qadir openly refuse to take up residents' concerns about the new casino at Stratford because she works for Newham Council! ( A post that Private Eye holds is 'political', thereby debarring her from elected office at all)

Until the Widdecombe rules are tightened to prevent this kind of flagrant inbreeding nepotism and concealment will continue to blight this Borough. Since the Tories' policy is to provide no opposition, and the Lib Dems have committed mass suicide, I believe the best way forward is for people to vote for independent non-party candidates of their own choice as the first step to cleaning the stables. Only then can the culture of official impunity begin to be tackled by Councillors who mean business, and are not looking to preserve their next public-sector promotion.
Who's in?

Mr Brittas says...
3:16pm Tue 27 Mar 12
MDJ You are totally correct. The department head and former labour leader was appointed to investigate
O-Regen. The investigation revealed potential fraud and the police were involved. LBWF funds were involved in the potential fraud and Cllr Akram's involvement along with the Cllr's who were O-Regen trustees was revealed. Action by the LBWF investigating officer none. Cllr admonishments none. This same Dept Head also oversaw Drapers Field to ODA, Low Hall to camp site, Ive Farm to camp site. One of his briefs, development of sport in waltham forest. The relationship between officers and councillors is incestous and based on long standing personal friendships, there is not a Lord (Your fired) Sugar among them.


Tom Thumb says...
1:19pm Tue 27 Mar 12
Waltham Forest shows all the signs of being an officer-led council, with the political control which ought to be exercised by elected members non-existent.
This might just be because there are far too many weak, lazy councillors. It might be that some councillors would ask questions but are too afraid to rock the boat and be punished by being edged out of positions which bring them lavish allowances. Or it might be that some councillors are themselves implicated.
WFGuardianEvidence of possible charity fraud emerges
23 March 2012
read

Further evidence has emerged of potential fraud at a charity with close ties to Waltham Forest Council which is being investigated by police.
O-Regen was accused of flawed accounting and providing “fictional figures” by the council months before the charity went into financial meltdown last year, documents released under the Freedom of Information Act show.
A police probe was launched soon after O-Regen entered administration in May following a complaint by Hackney Council.
The charity, which owned community facilities such as the Epicentre in Leytonstone, was handed contracts worth £400,000 by the authority between 2008 and 2010 to help the long-term unemployed.
Despite evidence that the charity failed to fulfil its obligations, it was in July 2010 handed another similar contract worth more £1.1m.
The council soon became concerned about the charity’s performance and an auditor was sent in to investigate.
He found “problems across the board”, including flawed accounting and pre-signed employee time sheets.
Comments(3)
UKIP-local says...
10:02am Sat 24 Mar 12
Fraud connected with Waltham Forest council?
Shurely shom mistake.

Mr Brittas says...
5:26pm Sat 24 Mar 12
O-Regen is in administration and the administrators want to get rid of it (the good parts) as an on going charity. A major UK charity, well known and well funded, have offered to take over the O-Regen buildings and settle any debts. This is, apparently, being blocked by LBWF who want to run the buildings themselves (sub contracted to their profit making sub contractors) as they can make a profit to LBWF as opposed to the well known charity fulfillings its pledges to serve the community, something LBWF does not do i.e. serve the community !!!

mdj says...
6:17pm Sat 24 Mar 12
One point this story did not remind us of is the glaring abuse that one of the principal debtors to O-Regen is one of the trustees! Did none of these people, entrusted with our money, have anything to say before this came about? They're all being very quiet now, that's for sure!
Can you tell us more, Mr Brittas?


UKIP-local says...
10:02am Sat 24 Mar 12
Fraud connected with Waltham Forest council?
Shurely shom mistake.

Mr Brittas says...
5:26pm Sat 24 Mar 12
O-Regen is in administration and the administrators want to get rid of it (the good parts) as an on going charity. A major UK charity, well known and well funded, have offered to take over the O-Regen buildings and settle any debts. This is, apparently, being blocked by LBWF who want to run the buildings themselves (sub contracted to their profit making sub contractors) as they can make a profit to LBWF as opposed to the well known charity fulfillings its pledges to serve the community, something LBWF does not do i.e. serve the community !!!
WFGuardianNo arrests made in six-month investigation into alleged fraud
25th November 2011
read ...
Police launched an inquiry after a complaint by Hackney Council.
The charity provided training and funding for a variety of community organisations and owned the Epicentre and Click Centre in Leytonstone, the Score Centre in Leyton, and two training colleges in Walthamstow.
Comments(2)
Redfox says...
8:51am Sun 27 Nov 11
Isn't it time the Guardian did some proper investigative journalism?
Where are the 2 "training colleges" in the borough? Was one at the former Health Centre in Hurst Road? How did they acquire that?
What about the Ive Farm Sports Ground was that another O-Regen operated site - now derelict again?
I still haven't heard what happened to the issue of the Afro-Caribbean Centre in Leyton going bankrupt was it? I forget now it's almost 10 years ago. Strangely enough they used to operate from the Ive Farm Sports Ground too, new pavilion in place of the old one.
Will nobody in the local Leyton Labour group speak out?

mdj says...
5:01pm Sun 27 Nov 11
Considering that most of the trustees of O-Regen are Councillors of this Borough, silence from the Council is simply unacceptable. Basic rules against conflict of interest were ignored: it doesn't seem to be disputed that one of the trustees was also one of the biggest debtors to the trust!
Back in May , a WFG article quoted the police as finding the inquiry 'complex', so little progress has been made since then. It was also stated at that time: ..'Earlier this month the council agreed to send a senior officer, thought to be Clive Morton, to help the charity with its financial issues...'
Given that Mr Morton is a former Labour leader of the Council, was involved in the free gift of several million pounds-worth of Council land to a private-interest charity chaired by the then Labour mayor, and whose department has lately been involved in the granting of a contract for £1.5 million to the Coop, who coincidentally are keeping the Labour Party from bankruptcy, it may be questioned whether this was the best appointment to clear the air, if that was the intention.
The keenness of the previous Borough Police Commander to appear at social gatherings with the people he was supposed, among other tasks, to be keeping an eye on, may also help explain slow progress.
Until this issue is cleared up, a very bad smell will hang over this Council.


mdj says...
5:01pm Sun 27 Nov 11
Considering that most of the trustees of O-Regen are Councillors of this Borough, silence from the Council is simply unacceptable. Basic rules against conflict of interest were ignored: it doesn't seem to be disputed that one of the trustees was also one of the biggest debtors to the trust!
Back in May , a WFG article quoted the police as finding the inquiry 'complex', so little progress has been made since then. It was also stated at that time: ..'Earlier this month the council agreed to send a senior officer, thought to be Clive Morton, to help the charity with its financial issues...'
Given that Mr Morton is a former Labour leader of the Council, was involved in the free gift of several million pounds-worth of Council land to a private-interest charity chaired by the then Labour mayor, and whose department has lately been involved in the granting of a contract for £1.5 million to the Coop, who coincidentally are keeping the Labour Party from bankruptcy, it may be questioned whether this was the best appointment to clear the air, if that was the intention.
The keenness of the previous Borough Police Commander to appear at social gatherings with the people he was supposed, among other tasks, to be keeping an eye on, may also help explain slow progress.
Until this issue is cleared up, a very bad smell will hang over this Council.