Birmingham’s progress in tackling gang-related murders is in danger of being undermined by red-tape surrounding Government funding of vital community projects, it has been claimed.
Kirk Dawes, director of West Midlands Mediation and Transformation Service (WMMTS), spoke out after police appealed for calm after two suspected gangland deaths.
“Guns are going off and people are dying but community groups can’t do anything about it because the process of getting funds is so slow,” he said.
Mr Dawes founded WMMTS three years ago to enable people from rival gangs to sit down and talk rather than reach for a gun. He said people working on the ground, who aim to cut firearm, knife and other violence, were frustrated by changes in the way funding was allocated.
The former detective with West Midlands police said community projects used to be funded through local area agreements, where partnership between the statutory bodies and those working on the streets was the key driver.
“Now they’re all talking about ‘worklessness,’” he said. “The problem is that nobody understands how the new funding works, not even at the local authority level.
“You can’t get your bid sorted out because you don’t know what you’re bidding into. Everything gets slowed down while people are trying to work out the new system and projects go to the wall because of that.’’
He also said groups could not plan their work because funding is only allocated on a year-by-year basis.
Mr Dawes’ comments came after Dr Derrick Campbell, adviser to the Home Office, told the BBC there was hard evidence from community groups in Birmingham that funding was being cut.
Dr Campbell chairs Birmingham Reducing Gang Violence 3 (BRGV3) which scrutinises the work being done by BRGV1 and BRGV2, partnership organisations set up to tackle violent crime in the city.
He accused politicians of “leaving black youths to die” by cutting funding to community groups.
Since then violent crime in the city has been reduced. Five years ago, 20 people were killed in gang related violence in Birmingham. Two years ago, there were only two people killed and last year there was just one.
But on Saturday night Dimitri Foskin was shot in the chest in a driveway in Newtown in what is believed to be a gang-related crime, the third fatal shooting in eight months in the area. Chief superintendent Mick Treble appealed for calm between rival gangs.
Last weekend Matthew Sutherland, 29, was stabbed to death outside the city centre Q Club in an attack that was reportedly gang-related.
“When you consider that the cost of a murder investigation is £1.4 million what the Government gives to groups that help prevent murders happening is piffling.
“Birmingham has got a very good track record in reducing violence,” said Mr Dawes. “I’m not a doom and gloom merchant. I still believe something can be worked out. But if it keeps on like this that is in danger of being reversed.
“One of the problems is that the government sees us as a ‘project’ when really we are providing a service. We are seen as a some kind of hobby when actually when what we are doing is finding ways of reducing extreme violence.”
Mike Royal, former coordinator of Birmingham Street Pastors, an organisation set up to befriend youngsters out on the streets of Handsworth, Lozells and Aston, said: “People are at the end of their tether. There’s a lot of frustration and the Government must act.
Next month Mr Royal takes up the post of project manager of BRGV2, which is concerned with the allocation of funds to community groups, but which can only act within the statutory constraints.
“I have great deal of sympathy with the community groups trying to get funding,” he said. “The feeling is that when the whole issues of guns and gang crime hits the headlines, there’s a lot of funding activity but when it all dies down, so does the funding.”
Coun Alan Rudge, cabinet member for equalities and human resources, said there were incidents of Government money not reaching grass level communities but he criticised Dr Campbell’s attack.
He said: “There are a lot of things that are wrong with Government policy in particular, but this kind of exaggerated posturing does not help.
“Solving problems within communities is not just about securing more money. The National health Service is a classic example of an organisation that can have lots of money thrown at it, but this makes very little difference to its performance.
“We always deal in Birmingham with those who are interested in improving their neighbourhoods and bringing opportunity to people, rather than just handing out cash to pressure groups or people who want to blow their own trumpets.
A Home Office spokesman: “The government is committed to tackling gun, gang and knife crime and getting weapons off our streets.’’