Love Wapping can exclusively reveal that Tower Hamlets council has started an investigation into payments of over £300,000 to a non-existent local charity for ten years despite repeated warnings.
Docklands Handicapped Group was removed from the Charity Commission register in March 2000.
But for at least the last ten years notifications of BACS payments from Tower Hamlets council to Docklands Handicapped Group (DHG) have been sent to Roserton Street E14, currently the address of the Island House Community Centre. But the DHG has operated at this address since 2006.
BACS remittance advice documents of two payments of £25,441.87 and £9,732.70 on the 2nd and 3rd February 2016 to a Docklands Handicapped Group Santander bank account have been obtained by LW and are reproduced below.
These payments and publicly available council Payments to Suppliers data total £334,827.39 since 2011.
A breakdown of all payments is available here.
Records show that Docklands Handicapped Group (DHG) does have an address at Saunders Ness Road, E14 – the home address of Kathy McTasney, a close associate of former Mayor Rahman.
Money for carers
When contacted by LW for comment Ms McTasney said that DHG was no longer functioning but the payments to DHG were for the carers who look after her severely disabled daughter and that she had no direct knowledge of finance details and little interest in the source of funds as long as the carers were paid.
Ms McTasney was unable to explain how an organisation removed from the Charity Commission register 16 years ago was still receiving funds.
Ms McTasney has stood unsuccessfully as a Tower Hamlets First councillor in the 2014 local elections. She is a trustee of the Mudchute Association and secretary of the Employees General Union Ltd which is also linked to her home address on the Isle of Dogs.
She left Tower Hamlets Labour party in March 2011 to join Tower Hamlets First saying that “Lutfur Rahman is the people’s choice for mayor”.
Directly elected Tower Hamlets Mayor Lutfur Rahman was banned from office in 2015 after being found guilty of corruption including the misallocation of grant funds.
Tower Hamlets council investigating
Commenting on the payments a Tower Hamlets council spokesperson said: ‘We are unable to comment on the specifics of individual cases. The council takes these allegations very seriously and we will be investigating the evidence through the appropriate channels.”
Cllr. Peter Golds, Leader of the Conservative Group at Tower Hamlets council commented that “The issue of these payments is extremely interesting and I have passed on my concerns to the relevant authorities.“
Update 12.39 1 April 2016
Below is an updated statement from Tower Hamlets council.
“The council takes these allegations very seriously. Our initial investigations show that all care payments made were to meet the assessed needs of the recipient and were reviewed and agreed in line with standard social work practice. Docklands Handicapped Group is known to adult social care, however they should have alerted the council to its change of circumstances. We will continue to investigate the detail of this case through all appropriate channels.”
Update 10.01 7 April 2016
In a prepared statement John Biggs, Mayor of Tower Hamlets, said: “We take this matter extremely seriously and are investigating it thoroughly. It does however concern payments made to assist with the care of a severely disabled and vulnerable adult, and this matter needs to be kept in mind and the matter dealt with sensitively.
“This long preceded my appointment as Mayor but I will ensure any proper lessons are learnt and that any funding for services provided is in future provided in the appropriate manner and is properly accounted for. I cannot account for the assertion that the Council has been advised ‘countless times’ as this needs to be properly explained as a part of the investigation.”
Charity Commission investigating
The Charity Commission has been informed of the payments by LW and issued the following statement:
“The Charity Commission has contacted the organisation to establish if it is still operating as a charity. We await a response. It is an offence to solicit funds on the basis that an organisation is a registered charity if it is not registered with the Charity Commission in England and Wales, as this is misleading to donors and the general public. We have contacted Tower Hamlets Council for further information regarding the organisation.”
Steve Hill, Centre Director at Island House, refused to make any comment on the payments despite the fact that it was his own staff who finally managed to bring attention to the issue by emailing local councillors.
Alerts by Island House staff ignored
Island House staff have informed Tower Hamlets council on numerous occasions during the last ten years that the DHG has not used the Island House address since 2006, but it seems that the council had no knowledge of the group – despite continuing to pay it money.
In late 2015 Island House staff were finally instructed by a council employee to open the letters. When they did they realised that thousands of pounds of tax-payers money was being sent to a group of which Tower Hamlets council seems to have no knowledge.
The payments have continued since the administration of Labour Mayor John Biggs took charge and nearly a year after Eric Pickles put Tower Hamlets council under direct control of the Department of Communities and Local Government.
Council payment details to DHG for only three out of the ten years in question are currently publicly available on the Tower Hamlets website.
LW has asked Tower Hamlets council to provide copies of the invoices from Docklands Handicapped Group as referenced in the two BACS payment notifications.
LW will also be asking for an explanation of the process used to allow each of these payments, i.e. initial approval, officer review, councillor review, review of outcomes, checking annual reports and internal audits.
The Wapping Mole is back
Last year LW was closed – permanently we thought due to lack of funding – and the Wapping Mole took a well earned break. Sort of. However although not publishing very much Moley has been quietly digging away.
When the issue of the payments to Docklands Handicapped Group was mentioned to the Mole his belief that there were still a lot of unusual things going on in the borough was confirmed.
So the Wapping Mole is officially back – even if he is homeless and unemployed.
Our entire editorial team understands that Moley will only be publishing the bigger stories but will hopefully one day get back to documenting the real stories such as the issues faced by the Wapping Squirrels in their constant search for high quality nuts.
But for the moment the Wapping Mole has some very interesting leads to follow and holes to dig. Let’s hope he tells us all about them one day.
You never know, it might even be tomorrow.
Note: This story was published on 31st March, not 1st April. You have to wonder though.