As you can imagine, both I and the other members of the board of WCRT - all of us ordinary members of the local community who are passionate about trying to help local community organisations - feel hurt and concerned by this correspondence. Of course we can always do better, but the reason my previous letter emphasised the positive is not because we are self-congratulatory. As the chair of an organisation distributing and managing community funds, it would be completely wrong of me to discuss details of any individual application on a forum of this kind. I can defend in general terms, but I can't go into details. Moreover, while anyone can criticise WCRT, we neither wish to nor would consider criticising back. What I can say is that we do take criticism very seriously and examine carefully why it has arisen and what steps should be taken. It is also not unreasonable for me to point out that such criticism is actually comparatively rare.
I completely agree with the comment in a previous e-mail that â€˜One of the key factors in providing SRB funding to community groups is the support and guidance that goes with it'. WCRT continually offers such early and ongoing support, and many organisations have gone on to receive funds and other support not only from ourselves but from other funders as a result. On the few occasions when either grantees or unsuccessful applicants feel that in some way we have not come up to the mark, we really do put great effort into understanding why and what, if anything, should be done.
We are certainly not perfect. But then, like the people involved in this discussion forum, the board members of WCRT are ordinary members of the community. We are trying to Balance the demands of all sorts of issues in this area and, at the same time, to manage the inherent complexities of the Single Regeneration Budget system. We also have responsibilities as employers to the staff of WCRT, who work under great pressure and whose support and assistance to community groups is generally well regarded.
Disagreements of this kind are not pleasant, but all I ask is that those who read this string of e-mails understand that there are always two sides to any disagreement, and that it simply would not be fair or right to anyone involved to enter into details of either decision-making or individual behaviour in this or any other case.
Chair, Waterloo Community Regeneration Trust
I'm not a Waterloo resident, nor do I work in the area any longer, but I do have a longstanding interest in the area which I have known since I worked off Blackfriars Road in the 1980s.
I think it is fair to say that no-one other than a few insiders understands the workings of regeneration schemes in the area, and the remit and membership of the plethora of bodies in the area are very poorly publicised, depite attempts such as http://www.opensouthbank.org
Even an interested person like myself is unable to readily track down a list of the projects supported with £4.5million (???) of Single Regeneration Budget public money, which are reportedly being channelled through WCRT.
This is not just a problem in Waterloo. IMO there is a similar lack of transparency for regeneration initiatives at Vauxhall and the Elephant.
I would also note that the perception that regeneration monies have disproportionately benefitted the tenants of Coin Street Community builders, rather than other communities of social housing tenants in Waterloo and the adjacent areas is not confined to those involved (however tangentially) with Archbishops Park. I have heard it (off the record) from Lambeth councillors and local businesspeople.
Over three years Friends of Archbishops Park have received £1,200, out of this supposed £4.5 million. It took us a full year and a number of Councillor requests to even get on the mailing list. It took a lot longer to be sent a copy of either the WCRT bid or this year's delivery plan. I know we are not the only group to have problems.
A lot of WCRT focus is on 'the community group'. Yet I am pretty sure that the original London Development Agency grant sought 'targets'. Eg the deprivation in the area was recognised and the money was granted to deliver specific outputs, like new employment, better green space, education and so on. We have spent a lot of time and effort working up good proposals that would really deliver to local people. Parks in general are good ways of delivering affordable and accessible facilities to those with least. Members of the forum know how hard we have worked.
I, in fact, have experience of managing quite a complex SRB programme, slightly larger than WCRT's. (Curiously I got the job because of my community experience in Waterloo.) For that reason as much as any, I find it hard to see why improved facilities are dependent on whether a small number of local people make more effort and commitment. That said we are doing our best. WCRT are concerned that we do not attend enough meetings, so I have been to three this week, including two today. Other members of the group are doing the same.
There are some lovely people on the WCRT Board, and I know they care. But it really is not easy to communicate. As Rabbie suggests there is a lack of transparency. I really don't understand why meetings involving allocation of public money are not held in public. Or, at minimum, that groups are not allowed to meet either WCRT staff or the Board as part of putting in a bid. SRB bids are awful and run to up to 30 odd pages. For as little - though I accept WCRT have now changed their policy - as £500. (The bid failed!)
Most of that £4.5 million is now spent. I too would find it hard to see how it will have improved the lives of people living near to me. Local groups like the one I am involved with are still trying to make a difference. Indeed in the past three weeks we have received three grants totalling over £30,000. But we could do a lot more if we could access the money specifically ear-marked for the area. Certainly our group would welcome a dialogue that would focus on what we are settting out to do, and not why WCRT as a group think we are not good enough.