If you've never heard of this organisation don't bother reading this. Just because I asked Tower Hamlets Council for the last five years of funding for BLYDA - the Brick Lane Youth Development Agency - here is the council response in full:
Question: “Can I have an annual breakdown of how much money the council has given BLYDA over the last five years to run its services and whether the council's funding is match funded from other sources?”
Council reply: "Funding provided by the council was not necessarily from one specific department. It has been funded by number of departments to deliver different initiatives as required by the local authority time to time. For example:
· Shaathi Mentoring Programme
· Asha Gang mediation and conflict resolution programme
· Youth work delivery and
· Holiday based programmes
For that reason, I can not confirm what match funding they had in-relation to delivering above initiatives as the Youth Service did not provide funding directly to BLYDA for all above initiatives. but from a check the history of BLYDA’s funding it shows the breakdown as follows through JD One World:
· 2005 – 2006 £111,773
· 2006-2007 £96,155
· 2007-2008 £196,754.32
· 2008-2009 £232,500
· 2009-2010 £232,500
Abu Hasanath - the Business Development Manager and formerly head of Elite Youth before it merged with BLYDA (both organisations have occupied the Osmani Centre on Vallance Road since 2000) - said that the joint organisation, called the Osmani Trust, employed the equivalent of 25-30 people full time (some of them working part time) and had 20 volunteers.
Asked whether the organisation could be considered to have some kind of political influence on leader of Tower Hamlets Council, Lutfur Rahman, Hasanath said that Elite Youth had been in existence in one form or another since 1973 and that BLYDA had been around since the 80s. He said that it was in the interests of the organisation to work with whoever is the Council Leader and had had good relations with Helal Abbas and workable relations with Denise Jones the two predecessors of Lutfur Rahman.
Asked whether BLYDA/Osmani Trust was closely linked to the East London Mosque he said that the organisation sometimes used the facilities and had set up stalls in the Mosque and had a good relationship with it.
Asked whether there was graffiti on the football pitch saying "Kill the Jews" he said there wasn't.
I don't know enough about this organisation to say whether its political connections need closer scrutiny.
The Brick Lane Youth Development Association has been mentioned off-the-record by disgruntled senior Labour figures and in this comment piece on Harry's Place which said: "The Preventing Violent Extremism budget is being diverted to Islami groups and more money has just been voted at a cabinet meeting last month. Half a million quid is being given to a group called BLYDA, Brick Lane Youth Developement Association, which has now received somewhere in the region of six million over the last three years. All it does is run a football team on the wall of whose pitch were painted "kill the jews”.
The comment followed this piece in the Sunday Express (1) Government plans new counter-terrorism strategies (14 June)
One oddity is that a recent (April 2009) Freedom of Information request to Tower Hamlets council for details of all its funding for community organisations said that BLYDA had received a mere £45,000.
How this figure was arrived at when, three months later the figure was given as £232,500, I do not know.
The question of whether politicians make behind the scenes deals with community centres - offering funding in return for blocks of votes - caused me problems when I used to work in Tower Hamlets. If you're bored and have nothing else to do, have a look at this: Believe this conspiracy or be a racist.
For an idea of some of the controversy surrounding the East London Mosque here's a link to Peter Tatchell's piece about a controversial event at the East London Mosque on Tuesday: Anti-Semitic Saudi Chief Imam feted in London