In the Media

Disappointing progress in anti-crime mentors scheme, says mayor's adviser

PUBLISHED January 23, 2012

Ray Lewis says he is unclear about his own role, and claims leaders in charge of ?1.3m scheme need to 'up their game'

The high-profile youth worker who developed a flagship anti-crime mentoring programme for the London mayor, Boris Johnson, has said he is disappointed with its progress so far and he no longer knows what is his role as an adviser to Johnson.

Ray Lewis, who was appointed Johnson's unpaid "mentoring ambassador" in September 2010, told a London assembly committee that the leaders of the voluntary sector consortium appointed by the mayor to deliver his programme needed to "up their game".

The ?1.3m programme aims to match 1,000 adult mentors with 1,000 black boys thought at risk of becoming involved in crime. The committee heard that 62 working matches between mentors and mentees had been made so far, compared with a target of 180 by the end of last year. "There's no way to spin the fact that it is a disappointment," Lewis said.

Asked whether he had intervened with the delivery partner to improve its performance, Lewis said he had "little influence" and it was the responsibility of Greater London Authority officers. He added: "I don't cast pearl before swine," a biblical injunction against wasting things of value on those of lesser worth.

Lewis had been asked earlier whether it would be fair to say that he did not know what his role was. He replied: "That's not unfair."

He said he had spoken to Johnson about what he should do now that the programme was under way, and the mayor "had just done what Boris Johnson does, which is to encourage me to try and work out what the next steps might be. I think sometimes when one approaches the mayor one has to go with a decision and not for one. As yet that hasn't happened."

Lewis previously served the Conservative mayor in a full-time paid capacity as his deputy for young people between May and July 2008, before having to resign after it emerged that he was not a magistrate at the time, as he had claimed prior to his appointment.

His remarks follow months of controversy about the process by which the delivery partner was selected. The successful consortium, led by the University of East London (UEL), was announced last July after a three-person decision panel, which included Lewis, twice scored the bid of a rival consortium more highly against set criteria.

One member of the UEL consortium was a charity, the London Action Trust (LAT), whose trustees included the former Conservative MP and London mayoral candidate Steven Norris, who is a Johnson appointee to the boards of both Transport for London and the London Development Agency, and Nicholas Griffin, who is Johnson's adviser for budgets and performance.

The UEL bid was eventually preferred on the grounds that it alone of four shortlisted bidders passed a due diligence financial check. However, LAT went bankrupt soon after the UEL consortium was appointed.

Lizzie Noel, another member of the decision panel and Johnson's social action and volunteering adviser, said on Monday that the highest-scoring consortium, led by a personal development and life coaching company, Freeman Oliver, had turned down an opportunity to elevate one of its members, Barnardos, to the status of bid leader in order to enhance the financial side of its bid.

However, Dave Weaver, a Freeman Oliver senior partner who organised the bid, disputed this, saying they would have made Barnardos their lead but were told such a change was not possible once the bid had been submitted. "The process has been unacceptable," he said. "The GLA has continually moved the goalposts."

Concerns have been expressed about why a second set of interviews of the four shortlisted bidders was thought necessary. These were attended and chaired by Johnson's chief of staff, Sir Edward Lister, who had not attended the first interviews. He did not score the bids.

The third decision panel member, Ron Belgrave, a now former GLA officer, had previously been the chair. He told the committee that following the first interviews he believed that a decision to choose Freeman Oliver had been taken "in principle" but that after the second interviews the situation had been left "up in the air", with no decision taken. He said "by then I realised that I wasn't going to be part of the process".

The assembly committee member Caroline Pidgeon, a Liberal Democrat, said it was "quite extraordinary" that Lewis was still trying to fully understand his role, and added: "To describe progress on the mentoring scheme as 'disappointing' is a complete understatement."

The Labour member Len Duvall said: "At the end of the day this is about black youngsters who need help. We've had a flawed and tainted process and you have to ask if that has contributed to the poor delivery." © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds