On the 1st September we wrote this post about our bid to the High Streets for All Challenge. This document describes our bid to the GLA and our objectives for the project.
In this post we describe the sequence of events in the management of the project. We have refrained to communicate our perception of the poor management of the project until now, but feel that we have to now. Please read to the end, and especially the conclusion at the bottom.
£20000 were awarded by the GLA to develop the idea, and explore how to make it happen, ie put a costed project plan together and engage with possiblie partners. When we made the bid, our intention was to use some of this money to pay for our time doing so, as we have been working voluntarily engaging with the Kilburn Community since April 2018 and a project of that size would require a substantial amount of time.
Camden Council act as the lead organisation in this project and are meant to provide support to scope the project and to make the project happen.
We set aside most of our summer to work on this project. We spent hours going to GLA workshops and learning how other groups organise and make their ideas happen. We visited Community markets and spoke to community organisations with similar objectives in London. All this voluntarily.
The GLA announced that our bid had been accepted on the 21st June 2021. We did not manage to get a meeting with Camden Officers until the 26th July, when we were told that our bid had been linked with a TFL project that we had no details about.
On the 4th August Camden Council issued a press release about the challenge. This press realease was not shared with us, and we noted that we are the only partner who did not make a statement. Bad start….
On the 9th August, another meeting was organised, when we told Camden that we were expecting to use some of the £20000 budget to pay for our time. We then supplied in good faith a list of our contacts in Kilburn and discussed how Camden could support us. We also told Camden that we were very interested to investigate the offer of Power to Change to support a pilot ” Community Improvement District” in Kilburn
On the 24th August, Camden finally organised a meeting with the GLA and TFL to discuss the partnership. This was the first time we learned about the TFL project. We asked for the presented documents to be sent and were promised follow-up meetings with TFL. That sadly did not happen.
On the 1st September a meeting was organised with Power to Change and Camden.
We received an email on the 8th September from Camden, addressed to us, but mistakenly sent to the Kilburn Neighbourhood Forum, sending us a list of proposed activities from Camden, with deadlines. On the 9th September, we once again made time in our schedule to discuss these and to highlight that the tasks were unrealistic and unachievable within the time frame given, and once again reiterated that we would like our time to be renumerated. The conclusion was that Camden officers would come back with an alternative plan. The driver behind this plan seemed to have been the desire by Camden to rush 4 Months worth of work into 1.5 months so that Camden could do a stage 3 GLA bid in October.
On the 10th September at 6.28pm we received a message from Camden, with a summary of the meeting, that asked time for other discussions with no mention about renumeration for our time. Sadly without notice the Camden team then left on holiday from the 13th September to 19th September.
On the 17th September, we communicated via an email a proposed alternative approach to the project and detailed what support was required from Camden Officers.
We did not get an answer until 22nd September, that said that the Camden team would need more time to think about how they structure their work in Kilburn and would get back to us ASAP. Did not hear anything from camden Officers, except to organise meetings for some support regarding a possible legal stucture until the 30th September and the message was “thanks for sharing your suggested approach and amendments for the GLA
work, many points of which I agree make sense moving forward”, yet no details about what was agreable and what was not but yet asking for more of our unpaid time to meet with Camden Officers to discuss the community market.
Once again, we answered this message prompltly stating that we could not continue on the project without being renumerated for our time. For the first time Camden officers stated what the process was to get our time renumerated, and that we could discuss it.
Between the 20th September and 30th September, we received messages from various Kilburn stakeholders, stating that Camden officers had met with them to discuss the GLA project. We were rather surprised as had not been informed of those meetings.
On the 1st October, we attended yet another meeting with Camden, at short notice, where it was obvious that Camden had revised their approach, deciding to exclude us and purely use us as a free expandable resource to achieve their goals.
On the 3rd October, we sent a message, following the meeting, that highlighted our concerns about the way Camden was trying to by-pass us and use us. We requested that they did not use the Life in Kilburn name in any communication with third parties without our expressed written approval and we asked how we could move forward.
We did not get an answer until the 7th October, once again asking for more of our unpaid time and saying that the GLA agreement form that they had received on the 24th August would be sent to us on the 8th October for our review.
We received the draft GLA agreement form on the 8th October, and were utterly shocked by the contents. For the first time we got to know what Camden’s objectives were, what their perception of Kilburn was and what the project milestones were. This discovery happened exactly 109 days into the project. We were asked again to attend meetings arrange without our agreement unpaid. We once again stated that we could not agree to the draft GLA agreement without a rewrite that would be time consuming, and that we could not proceed with this level of unpaid work. 109 days had been lost, and they could not be made up in a few days.
We were asked to attend a meeting on the 15th October, mid day, organised with various Camden Officers to discuss the market. Sadly we had other commitments at that time and declined.
Since then, despite sending a follow up email on 17th October, we have not heard anyhting from Camden Officers but have been forwarded messages by Kilburn’s organisations , that were asked on the 20th October to support their GLA stage 3 bid to be sent 22nd October!
We put forward a GLA bid in good faith, hoping to help bring change to Kilburn by creating a Kilburn Network and giving Kilburn a more formal voice. We thought that Camden Officers would be supportive. Sadly, it looks like, our bid was used by the Camden High Street team to achieve objectives for Kilburn we do not share, using us as a free expandable resource and pretending with the GLA that the Community was involved when clearly 5 short meetings in the space of 4 months can hardly be considered as Community engagement.
Because we stopped them using our name in third party communication, they had no choice but to eventually send us the GLA draft funding agreement, and are stuck with the stage 3 GLA bid they want to make on the 22nd October. They cannot make that bid without the backing of a community based organisation and thus have spent this week contacting Kilburn organisations for their support.
We think that the project has been badly managed and does not have the interest of Kilburn as its motivation. The project could be reassessed, proper engagement could be carried out with Kilburn residents and businesses and a stage 3 bid with the GLA, that reflects what Kilburn needs and not what Camden think Kilburn needs, could be made in April. The time that Camden wasted between the 21st June and October, cannot be made up in a week, in a meaningful way!
Wishing Camden all the best in their endeavours for Kilburn. Still hoping that we can be involved in a meaningful and respectful way, but only time will tell…