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Oct 29 2017

Paul Says: Council STILL hiding things from residents

I read with interest the post iharrow published last month, highlighting the Council’s lack of transparency in using a crowdfunding platform for the “Our Village Garden Triangle” project in Rayners’ Lane. The project is for a good cause, and of course I support schemes to improve facilities and make Harrow a nicer place for all of us. But the more I look into this scheme, the more it concerns me.

With one day left to meet the crowdfunding target set, the project still needed around £7,000 of pledges to secure the future of the project or face it being scrapped. Then along comes Harrow Council to save the day, pledging a further £7,000 in addition to £40,000 the Council pledged months previously. As noted in the comments to the iharrow article this meant that the money raised from “local residents and businesses” excluding the large pledges from the Council, The Mayor of London and Ladbrokes, actual crowdfunding pledges from real people amount to £1,327 (1.82%) of the fundraising target of £72,755.

When examining a breakdown of costs on the crowdfund project website, it was noticed that 4% of the costs (£2,755) come under the category of “Other” which includes a fee of £2,250 for using the crowdfunding platform, Spacehive. This fee is more than the amount raised by the actual crowdfunding pledges from real people. Therefore in reality, these residents will only be paying Spacehive’s fees and this fee was only taken because the Council stepped in to ensure the fundraising target was met.

This is where it gets very interesting. Looking into the Spacehive, I discovered that a sitting Labour Harrow Councillor is in fact a senior employee of this company.

This therefore means that Harrow Council put in a last minute pledge which saved the project from being scrapped and ensured that the crowdfunding platform which the Labour Councillor works for, received their fee.

These bids were personally approved by the Labour Leader of the Council, without any of the normal safeguards the Council has in place. When I asked the Leader in a Full Council meeting in September if he was aware that one of his Councillors was an employee of Spacehive when the Council pledged money to this project he repeatedly refused to answer. Finally when I followed it up at the October Cabinet meeting, he confirmed that he was aware all along.

So the Labour Council continues to hide things from all of us and continues to waste our money. This needs to change.

Councillor Paul Osborn
Leader of the Harrow Council Conservative Group

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10 comments

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  1. TimeForChange

    This absolutely stinks!!
    This proposal was thought up and heavily promoted by a labour council,next years local elections is our chance to get rid of them

  2. Someonewhocares

    I suppose that if key information is in the Public Domain (ie. enough to be challenged by you Paul O.) it is not exactly ‘hidden’ but it IS a HUGE conflict of interest issue, that’s a fact!

    The previous article about this so-called ‘Crowdfunding’ activity on this Blog had already revealed it was -at best- a ‘rather fishy’ PR exercise… and thus one that should not be repeated.

    keep up the Detective work!

  3. Baron Sutclif

    The Labour group spending £54,000 (at least) on tidying up Rayners Lane at a time of tight budgets,appears to show that they have a rather odd sense of priorities. Some unkind people may think that building a garden in Rayners Lane is a bit like putting lipstick on a pig. However, it would perhaps improve the view for people visiting the nearby Conservative offices.

    1. Someonewhocares

      Probably less of “Lipstick on a pig” and more like a “Shed on A Paved-Over Green Space” ?

      It is interesting to note that in the past few weeks the “Triangle Cafe” has emerged on the web site for this. That’s right, their customers will have to cross over busy dangerous roads to get there too so they can sit in a concrete jungle…. totally clueless planning all round.

      Do you think any of the local cafes contributed to the “fund” on that basis – or is this what the Council do best now; “Trojan Horse” Projects (ie. Get folks to agree ‘in principle’ and then reveal their *true* intentions later on ?)

  4. Residents First

    I’m sure most of us agree that investing in improving public spaces for residents is in principle, a great idea. I can’t help but think this seems like a crazy amount of money for what the plans really are – just take a look at the website. Also, I wouldn’t feel safe using this public space seeing as there was a stabbing a stones throw from here just a few days ago – and I don’t think some funky lighting and some shrubs will deter thugs with knives…

    On top of this, it just looks incredibly dodgy. Residents’ money has effectively gone towards a Labour Councillor’s wages for his day job. I can’t believe that those in the know (The Leader of the Council and presumably the Finance Portfolio Holder and senior officers) thought this was acceptable. Even if this is technically legal and proper procedures have been followed (which I doubt they have) – it doesn’t look good and certainly sends out a bad impression. Politicians looking out for themselves again… people have had enough of this.

    Council money should be treated more carefully than if it was your own. Paul is right, the administration really need to take their responsibility to residents seriously. Good work from Paul too, in digging around in to this suspect project further.

    1. Someonewhocares

      It *is* dodgy RF! (Legitimate Council) Funding always requires a “statement of interests” from those involved, and these remarks (if they are honest and open..) become a matter of record.

      -This “alternative” (Crowdfunding) approach is effectively their “work-around”, but unfortunately it did not work…. as it was exposed and should be a source of embarrassment for them.

      1. Someonewhocares

        There is a meeting tonight at 7pm @ Rayners Lane to discuss this:

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ScU5BOwqzY

        £70K+ seems a lot of money to get rid of rats and smokers….

  5. Harrow Dude

    Well if everything is legit I presume Cllr Niraj Dattani will have nothing to worry about as their Head of Community Development

    Interestingly when looking at the donations made it appears that Niraj made a donation of £10 as did Kiran Ramchandani…which was twice what Sachin Shah managed with £20 from Adam Swersky. The top donation form a Labour Councillor was Jeff Anderson with £50.

    Strange that Sachin would refuse to answer Paul’s question when many of his party had already donated their hard earned cash to Spacehive’s project.

    I wonder if Spacehive had anything to do with the fundraising for Harrow Arts Centre?

  6. Harrow Dude

    Interesting what you find when you do a little digging. Turns out there’s an outdoor event being held by by Harrow’s Cooking at Bessborough Rd underpass with live music, DJ, cocktails and dancing and is one of five events planned by this outfit which is not in anyway connected to the “Harrow Cookery School” run by Harrow Council.

    Tickets are 2 for £10. Now it would appear that these events are been organised by a group of Labour councillors who collectively are “Harrow’s Cooking.”
    With endorsements from Kiran, Sachin, Niraj, and Adam It would suggest their involvement However I am happy to be corrected.

    The first question is has the appropriate license been granted for the outdoor events?
    Secondly what happens to the money raised from these events?
    Thirdly who in their right mind would plan an outdoor food event at the well publicised rat infested underpass that is Bessborough Road?

    1. Wealdstone Warrior

      Maybe they will be catching the rats and cooking them on a BBQ!

      Yes space hive were involved in the debacle of Harrow Arts Centre https://www.spacehive.com/save-harrow-arts-centre!#/backers

      What has happened to the donations, do the donors get a refund?

      While you are at it, look at Cultura London and the names associated with it at Companies House.

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