This morning, local youth worker, Graham Cooper, donned a hi-vis jacket, a gag and a sign reading `I am...Inspiring Communities Together' – a reference to him being barred from membership of the charity for not living or working in the Lower Kersal and Charlestown area.
As hundreds of local residents will testify, Graham has worked in the area for years, working voluntarily at Oliver's Youth Club, the Amber Project and within residents associations, helping people to live better lives, while campaigning against injustice in the area – particularly the failed, ten year £53million New Deal for Communities (NDC) project which attempted to bulldoze a whole estate in the area.
Since NDC folded, there has been £90,000 legacy money (from rents associated with the project) annually passed over to the community, which has always gone straight to an organisation, now called Inspiring Communities Together, which has formed itself into a charity.
Residents for years have complained that a large portion of this money has not reached the community but, instead has been paid to its Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and a paid part-time Chair (this was stopped last year). Meanwhile, Graham blew the whistle on issues surrounding "transparency of that organisation and its governance", along with other members of ICT.
Indeed, local councillor Stephen Ord called the ICT CEO and its former Chair "power grabbing control freaks" acting "out of greed...and self interest on a number of occasions"*
Since then, both Salford City Council, which passes over the £90,000 to ICT, and the Charities Commission have refused to hold inquiries into the charity's workings. And Graham has now been barred from membership which he believes is an attempt to stop him from raising issues at the Annual General Meeting of the charity, which takes place next Wednesday, 1st February 6pm, at the Salford innovation Forum, where ICT has a free office worth £10,000 annually from the NDC legacy.
This morning, outside Salford Innovation Forum, Graham won support from both passing motorists and workers going into their offices, and handed out leaflets stating...
"I am protesting to highlight the abuse of power and public funds. I blew the whistle on irregularities in the conduct of the charity, Inspiring communities Together, referring to two individuals.
"The complaint was `investigated' by the very people I complained about. Those who complain are gagged and driven out of the organisation..."
Later, Graham told the Salford Star... "I work in the area doing outreach, working with young people, taking them on trips, doing what I've been doing for the last twelve years. They are doing this so they can avoid me turning up at the AGM and renewing my membership as is my right.
"My application forms were sent to my house without any postage on it, cost me £2" he added "In fact all correspondence has either been sent to the wrong address, spelt wrong or not even had stamps on.
"The sad thing is that people who cancelled my membership are the ones who the allegations are against; that's what I can't understand" he explained "What I also can't understand is that Salford Council are letting them get away with it. If they think this will go away they've got another think coming. This will go on until someone sees sense..."
More protests are planned both outside the Innovation Forum and outside Salford Civic Centre to highlight the issues further.
The Salford Star has contacted ICT for a comment and will adding it if and when it is received*.
See also previous related Salford Star articles...
*Salford Charity Storm As Councillor Says It's Run By `Greedy power grabbing control freaks' – click here
East Salford Community Demands Answers from Council on Controversial Charity – click here
*Update: 28th January: ICT has now responded... "As ICT are currently working with Graham through our own policies and procedures to try to resolve his concerns it would not be right for us to comment at this time..."