A UKIP-dominated “community group” has refused to repay thousands of public money it received as a council grant, nearly six months after the term of the grant expired.
Inside Croydon reported earlier this month that the Croydon Communities Consortium – an ill-defined and ineffectual talking shop which has figures associated with UKIP holding key positions on its committee – had been approached by Croydon Council in December for the repayment of any unspent cash from a £5,000 grant which it had received in 2013.
According to an answer to public question from cabinet member Councillor Mark Watson at last week’s full council meeting, “The funding from the council was to support an agreed 12-month programme of work from November 2013. The programme has completed and in accordance with standard policy, the council has asked for the return of any unspent funds.”
Among the conditions attached to the grant was that the body should stage at least 20 meetings in a year – in the event, there were fewer than a dozen public meetings staged by CCC in 2014 – and that it should be apolitical. But its former deputy chairman was exposed for tweeting racist messages and support for UKIP, and while he reluctantly resigned his position, he continues to play a part in the organisation, as does Peter Staveley, UKIP’s General Election candidate in Croydon Central, and at least two other individuals who have been prominent in local UKIP activities.
The request for the refund was made by Croydon Council in December. According to CCC’s own figures presented at its most recent annual meeting, there should be more than £4,000 of the original grant outstanding.
But according to CCC’s chairman, Elizabeth Ash, her organisation is hanging on to the public cash.
In a style which is fast becoming all-too-familiar, Ash, also known as “Hyacinth Bucket”, claimed complete ignorance. She adopts that position most convincingly: “We are waiting for a response from the council following a meeting in early February when we asked a few straightforward questions to clarify the situation,” Ash/Bucket responded to Inside Croydon.
It seems that an official letter saying “Give us the public money back” is not clear enough for Bucket and her committee of UKippers to understand.
In a poll conducted by Inside Croydon, 82 per cent of respondents said that CCC should receive no further public funds.
According to sources in Katharine Street, the Labour group which took charge of the Town Hall last year is taking a much closer look at the awarding of small grants to local community groups, in an effort to ensure that best value for community activities is obtained, and to avoid public cash being handed out in return for political favours.
“When money’s tighter than ever, we need to direct what we have to those with greatest need, not just hand out public cash to those who are best able to ‘play’ the system,” a senior Labour councillor told Inside Croydon.
One particular case which is being looked at involves a prominent local charity which received £10,000 from Croydon Council under the Tories. The body organised a series of voter registration sessions attended by aides to Tory MP Gavin Barwell, and although the offer of the charity’s founder being selected for a “safe” Conservative council seat was declined, they did later take part in a party political campaign launch rally.
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