By Paul Goodman MP.
I asked in the Commons last Wednesday where this year’s tranche of Preventing Violent Extremism (PVE) money has gone. Hazel Blears is spending some £70 million on preventing violent extremism over three years. She’s been stonewalling my question about the 2008-9 slice of PVE money since January. She also stonewalled the previous year, 2007-8 – but was eventually forced to send me details, with an apology.
Alan Duncan, the Shadow Leader of the Commons, raised the matter during Business Questions the following last Thursday, and I pitched in again. Conservative Home kindly published the exchanges.
Blears has now backed down. She wrote to the Speaker yesterday to confirm that the information will be published before the end of the financial year.
But that’s not quite the end of the matter.
She writes that the DCLG “is working closely…to collate information setting out progress on the development of local partnerships and action plans. This includes information on engagement, including details about which community groups are funded for leading local projects”.
What this gobbledegook means, in plain English, is that the DCLG doesn’t hold up to date information about where the money’s gone – hence the delay in publication.
But local authorities will have decided which projects to spend this year’s PVE money on last spring – and allocated the money since then. It was the same last year. This is why Blears was able to give me the 2007-8 details in January 2008. So why doesn’t the DCLG hold up to date information this year?
Which leads to the big question: since it doesn’t, how can Blears guarantee that taxpayers’ money hasn’t ended up in hands of extremists – like those we saw recently on the streets of Luton?
If the Speaker calls me, I plan to return to the matter at Business Questions later today.