How John Prescott got it wrong – and why he should apologise to two women

A rant that needs ranting follows the welcome High Court judgement over the sacking of two women from the Bridge New Deal for Communities (NDC) regeneration body in Haringey.

Acting as voluntary chair and vice-chair of its finance committee, Joyce and Ibiola were dismissed after they raised questions about how money was being spent. Residents got up a 600 strong petition to John Prescott – then the man in charge of regeneration. But they got the brush off – and Parliament was told that Prescott and his team were “satisfied that the expulsions were handled fairly”.

Well, that’s not what the High Court decided after looking through the evidence (more details here). So why were Prescott & co satisfied that everything was ok? What investigations did they really carry out on receipt of the petition? And then there is the issue that these two women were trying to bring to light – what happens to all that public money thrown at areas of deprivation with real need? If two people are sacked after asking questions, some tough questions should be asked about what has happened with the money they were concerned about. What shouldn’t happen is what Prescott and co did do – dismiss the petition from 600 residents and say everything is ok.

In fact, the court’s verdict reminds me of my second year as a councillor in Haringey, when I was on the Regeneration Scrutiny Committee and tried to track some of this myself. I could not understand how such large sums of funding could end up with an end result of only around nine jobs being created in the cases we were looking at. Haringey Council may be the ‘accountable’ body for this spending – but what if they are no good? Who and how and to what extent are they checked? Audit – I hear you say! But … there was no audit in this instance since 2001 up until the current date; a question for the Secretary of State I think!