Wednesday, 3 July 2013

One Nottingham And Its Voluntary Sector Representatives

While we're on the subject of One Nottingham (see previous post wrt workfare issues) I thought we might have a look at the categories of voluntary sector reps that serve on its board because it's a bit odd.

As mentioned previously the board has a 'faith' representative, a BME representative and a 'general' representative.

Personally I think this is a bit odd. I absolutely agree that an organisation such as One Nottingham should have at least one board member representing BME communities but why is this only as part of the voluntary sector? Don't black people work in banks too?

I also wonder about whether a faiths representative is justified. Yes, I know the majority of people in Nottingham identify with a religion but I suspect only a tiny number of the 44% of Nottingham people identifying as Christian actually bother turning up of a Sunday. I'm sure levels of devotion in other religions is much higher but I suspect there's a lot of overlap between BME and non-Christian faith issues. Maybe combine the two?

That said, a sound justification for having a 'faith' representative is that, like race, it is one of the protected characteristics in discrimination law. However, that opens several worm-cans as One Nottingham appears to have no representation for the other major categories of women (yes, I know it's actually 'sex' but it's generally women who face the discrimination side of things), disability, older/younger people and LGBT communities, other than via the 'general' VCS rep. It's this that concerns me the most and I have no idea what the justification is. Please feel free to write in if you do.

It seems to me that a better way of doing things would be to have board reps representing the above sections of the community, based around the protected characteristics rather than on a particular service sector. Don't get me wrong, a voluntary sector rep is still justified as they are important service providers in the city. However I think it's wrong to assume that the interests of that particular business sector are necessarily the same as the people they serve.

What got me thinking about this is the current elections to the VCS reps on the ON board. While looking into this an aspect of the organisation of the vote for the BME rep concerned me a little and that is the involvement of Nottingham Equal;-

"The BME candidates will be elected by an electorate who have been notified to ON primarily (but not only) by Nottingham Equal."

Why does Nottingham Equal play such an important role? I've written quite a lot about this bunch in the past, largely due to its connections with two of Nottingham's dodgier characters, Hassan Ahmed and Tyron Browne, as well as the coincidental rise of this organisation concurrent with the demise of the former Racial Equality Council, more recently the Council for Equalities and Human Rights Nottm and Notts, which had Ahmed's fingerprints all over it. Browne is, of course still involved with NE. He is/was also involved with PATRA which did quite nicely out of the Future Jobs Fund (Prop. Hassan Ahmed).

I seem to remember that NE 'facillitated' the VCS BME rep election where the Chief Exec of CEHRNN was voted out of the role back in 2010 which left a bad taste in the mouth. Now they appear to effectively be the gatekeeper for the BME rep this time round.

With this latter point in mind it seems quite astonishing that one of NE's own board members, Prof Cecille Wright, is running for the BME rep post on the ON board. Have they never heard the phrase 'perceived conflict of interest'? Prof Wright is also a board member for PATRA too which is quite a coincidence.

So Nottingham Equal seems to have the entire BME sector in Nottingham in lockdown, quite an achievement for an organisation little more than three years old. How much of this is down to Browne's influence cannot be quantified but it's certainly true that NCC, and thus One Nottingham, have a very big motivation to keep him on side. After all, nobody knows better where the housing allocations scandal bodies are buried.

Monday, 1 July 2013

One Nottingham VCS Board Member Elections and Workfare

One Nottingham, the 'strategic partnership' has a management board with various posts reserved for representatives of particular sectors e.g., business, higher education and the voluntary sector. Currently, elections are underway for the voluntary sector posts which include a 'faith' representative, a BME representative and a sort of general 'everybody else' representative. More on the choices of these categories another time, maybe.

In the meantime, let's concentrate on the 'general' post. One of the candidates is Andrew Redfern, the Chief Exec of Framework HA which has deservedly attracted controversy and outright hostility for its participation in the Tories' take on modern slavery that is workfare. Have a look at their Facebook page to see some of the comments.

Because of this involvement in workfare, it would send a message if Redfern was sent packing in this election. Therefore, if you have any influence at any voluntary sector organisation in the City I urge you to persuade your organisation not to vote for him. It would also be very useful if any organisations exercising their vote in this way made it very clear why.

Framework has repeatedly refused to answer key questions about its use of workfare, particularly about whether it has reported participants for transgressions, putting them at risk of benefit sanctions and thus homelessness. It is an extraordinary course of action for an organisation which is supposed to be helping the homeless.

In the meantime, you may be interested in joining in with an internet blockade against Framework during the upcoming week of action against workfare.