Youth service relaunched in Tower Hamlets amid investigations into ‘missing’ £1m funds
PUBLISHED: 09:36 14 February 2018 | UPDATED: 12:12 14 February 2018
The troubled youth service run by Tower Hamlets Council has been relaunched while police and town hall investigations continue into “missing” funds of an estimated £1million.
Investigators found lack of transparency and staff failing to declare interests in organisations getting council contracts.
The scandal greeting mayor John Biggs when he took over was exposed 18 months ago after government commissioners brought in to check council spending found discrepancies from 2014 onward under the former Lutfur Rahman administration.
A police investigation is currently ongoing. Council audits have also led to eight staff members being dismissed, disciplinary action taken against another and five youth service employees having to resign.
But Mayor Biggs was now determined to wipe the slate clean.
“The youth service has been through upheaval following allegations of mis-practice under the previous mayor,” he told the East London Advertiser at the relaunch.
“There was mismanagement of funds and lack of transparency which was picked up by the commissioners.
“Our youth workers have been under a lot of pain and challenges because of stressful moments reorganising the way this service works.”
Last night’s relaunch at Stepney’s packed Haileybury youth centre gave a pledge that the youth service has been “transformed” following the suspensions and dismissals.
“It’s been a painful process for the council and stressful for the staff with allegations of fraud and misbehaviour,” Mayor Biggs revealed.
“A council investigation was already going on when I took over. It looked as if money had gone missing and poor management with very few youngsters turning up at youth centres.”
The scandal over the unaccountable £1m erupted at a council meeting with allegations of goods being bought on youth service credit cards without checks.
“Any member of staff who might have been wrapped up in that has been subject to the proper disciplinary procedures,” Mr Biggs added. “Some have left, some had their names cleared.
“Any evidence of fraud needs to rest with the police. But I get grumpy with the Met—we send them things to investigate, but they seem to take a hell of a long time going through them.”
The council is spending £4m a year running 18 youth ‘hubs’ with activities which now include sessions on the dangers of drink and drugs, help with bullying on social media and sexual health matters.
It is running eight full-time and 10 part-time centres offering sport, games, arts, music, recording studios, hair salons, climbing walls and computer suites.