Exactly what has been going on at the Wapping Community Group in Raines House prior to the £1.3m refurbishment of the building is still unclear despite a heavily redacted response to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request by LW.
You can see the text of the FOI response below and get the original PDF version from the Council website (Information request – Raines House & Council property in Roman Road ref: 12130687) or in case you can’t find it right here on LW.
LW asked the Council two questions:
- Details of any investigations into financial irregularities relating to the management and administration of Raines House, Raine Street, Wapping, E1W 3RU.
- Details of any investigations into the misuse of a Council property in Roman Road.
“We do not have any formal investigations into financial irregularities relating to the management and administration of Raines House. What we do have however is a briefing / discussion note that relate to arrangements / tenancy arrangements for Wapping Community Group and this is attached.
Some redactions have been applied under section 40 of the FOI Act as it is considered Personal information relating to third parties.”
“There are no investigations into the misuse of a Council property in Roman Road. If you have information relating to misuse of a Council property please inform us.”
(Our question about Roman Road was quite vague but was a tip from a usually reliable source. If anyone reading this knows of some connection between Raines House and something untoward in Roman Road please let the rest of us know!)
As you can see the briefing / discussion note the Council kindly supplied us is redacted (edited) at various points especially on pages 2 and 3.
LW would like to make it absolutely clear that Pollyanna Training Theatre, its staff and pupils which operates from the upper floor at Raines House is the completely innocent party from anything that has been happening on the ground floor and remains a Wapping success story.
The FOI response is quite involved and, because of the redactions, it is not possible to work out the full story so continuing our tradition of providing you with all the information we have for you to make your mind up here is the FOI.
The Raines House community groups that don’t exist
What we can tell you is that the report focusses on the Wapping Community Group (aka Wapping Tenants and Residents Association or Wapping TRA) and the Wapping Community Activities and Luncheon Club.
Well, sort of focusses. Because some of these organisations do not seem to exist.
The Council has undertaken some very basic checks and could find no trace of the Wapping Tenants and Residents Association on Google, Companies House or the Charity Commission register.
The Council did some find an address for the Wapping Tenants Association on Google but again nothing on Companies House or the Charity Commission register.
The Wapping Community Group did appear on the Google search and boasted of having several sport and leisure facilities and a social club open to members only. But again no trace at Companies House and although once registered as a charity it was removed from the Charity Commission register in 2013.
A link to Charity Commission entry for The Wapping Community Activities and Luncheon Club was found on Google but no trace on Companies House (but no surprise as it is just a charity).
However the Charity Commission entry states that the charity has failed to provide information on its finances for 149 days. Which is not ideal.
Wapping Lunch Club
It seems that the Wapping TRA (which does not exist of course) now owes the Council £30,000 for lunches provided by Contract Services and that it has not paid the Council for community meals dating back to 2012.
In the past LW has seen lunches being provided at Raines House on many occasions so what has been going on here is anyone’s guess.
The Council undertook an Audit Visit on 6th February 2017 and found ‘both of the organisations within the building’. Presumably these were the non-existent ones?
Here’s what it all gets daft.
The FOI response states that ‘Several title names for the same entity appear to have been used over the years and recognised by the Council’ and that ‘This initial examination has raised a number of concerns regarding the probity and reliability of the information the Council has relied upon.’
You don’t say!
The other details you can read for yourself (well, not the blacked out bits).
The document also states that Councillor Denise Jones holds her fortnightly residents surgery from Raines House but this will not be affected by events there.
What a train wreck. A complete and utter shambles.
It is 2018. We could have written this story anytime during the Lutfur Rahman administration of 2010 – 2014 and it would have fitted in perfectly.
This sorry tale of incompetence and dodgy dealing in the heart of Wapping has taken place both during the Rahman administration and the previous Labour administration of 2015 – 2018.
We wonder if this story had come out before May this year if quite so many people would have voted Labour?
The reliance on dubious information by the Council to allow this to happen would be much worse if there had been a major scandal relating to dodgy Lunch Club funding by a previous Mayor.
More uncomfortable questions to be answered
So we are left with yet another question. How were the various activities happening at the various non-existent ‘community groups’ operating from Raines House not picked up by the investigation by the DCLG Commissioners following them taking control of the borough?
Oh and it seems there is still no police investigation into what has allegedly happened at Raines House. Why not?
There also seems to have been – maybe there still is – something going on with the sudden love shown to the non-existent Raines House community groups by the Aspire Party during the May elections this year.
The Labour administration of Tower Hamlets is doing a pretty poor job (yes, we are being polite) of being open and transparent as none of the details of Raines House would have come out if the Wapping Mole had not done a lot of digging. Why so?
And what else is there that residents and voters should know?
It’s smelly – and we ain’t talking roses
Moley originally went digging around because of the surprise news that Raines House was going to have £1,300,000 spent on it. That did not smell right to Moley. It still doesn’t. Moley still has some details on this from the Council but not enough.
The Wapping Mole’s not particularly famous nose is still twitching about the sudden decision by the Council to spend a shed load of money (which we don’t have spare) on a community centre with absolutely no prior consultation with the Wapping community. None. Nada. Zero. Zilch.
Curious that Raines House suddenly becomes so important to the Labour Party and then becomes the centre of unrestrained love from the Aspire Party.
The reason for Moley’s continued sceptical view of any Council administration in the borough, irrespective of political party, is explained after reading this little story .
Let’s look on the bright side. At least there is not another sorry tale to tell of another non-existent charity receiving large sums of Council money just waiting to be told.
Oh hang on! You guessed it – there is! Get writing Moley!