Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Threats of legal action from solicitor bring Ministers cash pledge after ‘blunder’

After the Government seemingly reneged on funding pledges to organisations, it apparently took the threat of legal action from well known solicitor Mike Dailly of the Govan Law Centre in Glasgow, to have those funding pledges restored …

Ministers in cash pledge after blunder over letters


Scottish ministers have moved to head off accusations of political vindictiveness after an administrative blunder was blamed for the reneging on cash pledges to community organisations.

More than 20 groups across Scotland were told on Friday afternoon they had been successful in their applications for funding from the Scottish Government's equality unit only to be told hours later that a decision had "not actually been made" by the Communities Minister Stewart Maxwell and that "all the letters which were sent out were done so prematurely".

Civil servants claimed they had simply been preparing drafts so they could move quickly once a decision had been reached and that those who had been wrongly told could discuss the matter.

However, following allegations by one recipient, Mike Dailly, of the Govan Law Centre, that the U-turn was politically motivated and that he would pursue legal action if the promised £250,000 did not materialise the government pledged yesterday that all those who received the first letter would get the funding.

Mr Dailly, a solicitor and Labour Party activist, had applied for the money from the Race, Religion and Refugee Initiative to establish a Govanhill Law Centre, providing legal advice on housing and welfare to black minority ethnic communities in Glasgow's south side.

He had claimed it was more than coincidental that he had received the second e-mail claiming no decision had been made on the same day he was quoted publicly criticising an SNP councillor who had campaigned against poor housing in a Govanhill street where he owns and rents a flat to a Romanian family in a rundown building for £500 a month.

Mr Dailly said he thought Councillor Jahangir Hanif "was part of the solution but is clearly part of the problem".

After being told on Friday evening that no decision had been made and that the offer had been sent in error, Mr Dailly said he found it incredible that the head of the equalities department, Yvonne Strachan, could send a £250,000 offer without ministerial approval and threatened to take the government to court.

Government sources have accused Mr Dailly of attempting to make political capital out of an administrative error and that no organisation was in danger of losing any money. His threats came amid accusations of cronyism after the government handed hundreds of thousands of pounds in public funds to an Islamic group run by an SNP activist.

Around £215,000 was awarded to the Scottish Islamic Foundation, a group run by Osama Saeed, an SNP member who is to contest the Glasgow Central seat in the next Westminster election.

The issue also spilled on to the Glasgow East by-election, with Labour's Margaret Curran saying she found it "exceptional that this scale of error could be made" and that it was a "very off way of doing business", while her SNP rival John Mason said a mountain was being made of a molehill and that the awarding of the funding yesterday was evidence of "a government making quick decisions".

Last night a Scottish Government spokesman said: "Ministers were already content to approve grants to all the organisations who received these letters early, as per the recommendation from officials.

"However, draft letters were issued prematurely in error before the final, but imminent, ministerial sign-off.

"The content of the letters would not have changed between draft and final versions."

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