Tower Hamlets – all the grants, all the wards, all the money (UPDATED)

Update 18 October 2014. Further analysis has led to the original figures for grant funds being revised upwards. Please see this new post for details. 

New analysis of Tower Hamlets Council documents shows the distribution by electoral ward of £6,752,416 of funds in four grant ‘pots’ to organisations across the Borough.  The four grant pots are the £580,000 Community Faith Buildings Support Scheme (CFBS), £405,712 in the Community Chest, £161,800 for Community Events and the £5,604,904 of the Main Stream Grants (MSG) scheme.

All grants over £1,000 are approved by Mayor Lutfur Rahman.

While the source data has been available for some time (see Data Sources below) this is believed to be the first time that all the data from the four different grant pots has been consolidated and matched to borough wards.

Previous investigations into Tower Hamlets Council grants have been carried out by BBC Panorama and Andrew Gilligan of the Daily Telegraph [£]. Auditors PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC) have recently concluded an audit of Mayor Lutfur’s administration at the request of the Department for Central and Local Government.

It should be made clear that the information presented on this page is as the result of more than a little bit of work by Love Wapping. It is not possible to gain any reasonable understanding of where the grant funds have been allocated on the Tower Hamlets website.

Poor old Millwall

Spitalfields and Banglatown comes out top with £974,100 of money or 14.43% of the total distributed compared to Millwall awarded a mere £51,750 (0.77%). St. Katharine’s and Wapping has the distinction of being the only ward to have received no funding from the Community Faith Buildings Support Scheme at all.

Looking at the overall distribution of the four grant pots  in the chart above it is tempting to draw conclusions other than the data shown. The reality is that it is difficult, if not impossible, to make statistical correlations between grants and other factors such as electoral results or population breakdown or ethnic mix.

New wards, old wards

The primary reason is that the data examined can only be categorised by the old electoral wards, not the new wards contested in the 2014 Local and Mayoral Elections.

Census data at a ward level is not currently available and it could be argued that even this level of detail is not granular enough for analytic purposes.

The data consolidated from the Council’s different documents lists grants awarded – not necessarily spent. And perhaps most importantly because an organisation in a particular area is awarded grant money it is not always the case that the money is used for the benefit of that area. Some of the organisations have a borough wide remit although many are local in nature.

However it has to be said that the huge variation between grants – Spitalfields and Banglatown compared to Millwall being just one – is odd. It is not credible that the people of Millwall have so little need of support or facilities other than that provided by Tower Hamlets council itself.

Organisations refused grant funding

One way to understand if an accurate and fair distribution of grants has been made across the borough is to know which organisations were refused grants. Others have requested this information from Tower Hamlets Council but, from memory, these requests have been refused. (Anyone with the appropriate FOI reference please get in touch).  Maybe this information has been unearthed by the PwC auditors.

Local government transparency

The purpose of posting boring rows of numbers for public consumption is that of transparency. All Tower Hamlets residents have the right to be provided with the facts and figures, in an accessible manner, that will allow them to see what local government does. They can then make their own decisions.

Matching grant awards against Payments to Suppliers

The Council’s Payments to Suppliers over £500 spending data has previously been published here. These records cover grant awards payments from the Council to the organisation given the grant. Reconciling the grant award with the actual payment should be straightforward but is not for two reasons

  1. Grant award documentation published does not usually have a unique grant award reference
  2. Payments to Suppliers information published does not specify grant award references
  3. Referencing the grant award organisation name against a suppliers name is not useful due to there often being no unique supplier reference such as a Limited Company or Charity Commission registration number

Grant timescales

The most succinct explanation of the timescales for the various grants is given by Cllr. (Labour, Mile End) Rachael Saunders via Twitter (thanks @RachaelSaunders!):

“Grants were given at various points during his [Mayor Lutfur Rahman’s] first term, the mainstream grants were for three years originally. Faith buildings and events were one offs when given, some faith grants on the basis of more promised in future. Mainstream grants timescale changed because of delayed decision making.”

A less concise explanation of grant timescales is given below. Information is taken from the Tower Hamlets website. In theory it should be possible to match grant awards to payments in Tower Hamlets Council’s Payments to Suppliers data but in practise this is very difficult if not impossible for residents to do.

Mainstream grant funding timescale

“The Mainstream (MSG) programme budget is £3.551 million per annum – this currently funds in excess of 130 organisations (some contracts however include other organisations within their delivery partnership) delivering over 220 individual projects of varying size and complexity.”  (Original document)

Document examined dated 27th November 2012, all grants have ‘recommendation to Cabinet 3rd October 2012’.

Community Faith Buildings Support Scheme (CFBSS) timescale

The Community Faith Buildings Support Scheme runs from 2012-2015. Round One proposed decision was published 24/04/2013 (Original document)

Community Chest and Community Events grants timescales 

Neither of the specific Community Chest and Community Events documents examined have dates.

Community Chest applications for first round had to be submitted by 1 February 2013.

The Community Events scheme provides funding of up to a maximum of £5,000 and has no closing date, applications can be submitted at any time. Assessments and awards to be made approximately every two to four months. (Original document)

Community Chest and Community Events schemes suspended

This from the Tower Hamlets Council website.

“The scope of the Mayor’s Community Chest Programme and Community Events Initiative are currently being reviewed. Whilst this review is being undertaken the council has decided to temporarily suspend these programmes. The outcome of the council’s review of the scope of the programme will be announced on this page shortly. In the meantime, the council will not be accepting applications for the Mayor’s Community Chest and Community Events programmes.”

Data Sources

Other Love Wapping data stories can be found on the Data Stories page. Where else?


4 thoughts on “Tower Hamlets – all the grants, all the wards, all the money (UPDATED)

  1. You admit to not knowing why there might be such a difference in grant allocation, yet you declare it as not credible, with no arguments to support that conclusion. What is the grant allocation per head of population in each ward? How do the amounts compare to levels of unemployment or poverty in each ward?

    These – and similar – questions should be asked, before taking numbers at face value and then inferring something. Lack of transparency is indeed a bad thing, but so is misrepresentation based on scanty facts.

    1. Dear Mr Lemmerman,
      I don’t see how the stating Tower Hamlet’s own data showing that Spitalfields and Banglatown gets £974,100 (14.43%) of the total awards against Millwall being awarded a mere £51,750 (0.77%) is ‘misrepresentation based on scanty facts’? A deaf and dumb hamster knows that variation is not right. Or has Millwall been suddenly populated by Russian oligarchs who have no need of any support services? If it has let the rest of us know.

      1. I can’t speak for the objectivity of deaf and dumb hamsters, but I still say that presenting the numbers in this way gives a skewed and superficial impression. For example, in 2011:

        Spitalfields & Banglatown had 4% of population of Tower Hamlets, 161 residents per hectare, 55% of children and 82% of older people (65+) in income-deprived families, average life expectancy men 77.4 women 84.8

        Millwall had 9 % of population, 117 residents per hectare, 45% of children and 42% of older people in income-deprived families, average life expectancy men 79.7 women 89.2

        Just some example, there’s loads more at

        By the way, I am not disputing there might be an unbalanced allocation of budgets (look at those population percentage number examples – they make for a bigger unbalance). If we expect balance and transparency, then we better be balanced and transparent ourselves.

        1. I do not believe there is an appropriate dataset to compare with the posted statistics for grant funding so I did not publish one. Do you think it would be better to not publish this information?

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