Controversial charity, Inspiring Communities Together (ICT), which receives £90,000 of public money annually, employed three bouncers in an attempt to stop one whistleblower from attending its Annual General Meeting held at Salford Innovation Forum on Wednesday night.
Local Charlestown and Lower Kersal youth worker and community activist, Graham Cooper, became a whistleblower about the charity's activities, telling the Salford Star in December "It's about transparency, decision making and this organisation's involvement with the community. There should be an independent investigation and that hasn't occurred." (see previous Salford Star article – click here)
He had intended to detail the allegations to the charity's members at the AGM but found that his membership was to be struck off as ICT decided that he didn't live or work in the Charlestown and Lower Kersal area. Last week Graham mounted a protest outside the offices of the charity, complete with a gag, issuing a handout to passers by reading:
"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" it added "Those who complain are gagged and driven out of the organisation..." (see previous Salford Star article – click here)
On the night of the AGM, Graham turned up accompanied by local Councillor Jane Hamilton, arguing that while he was appealing against the charity cancelling his membership he was still legally a member and entitled to attend the meeting. He was met by the three bouncers only to be told that he `wasn't on the list' and wouldn't be allowed in.
"The fact that three of you have been employed to stop one member coming to a legitimate meeting for which I am a member is an absolute disgrace" Graham can be heard saying on a video which he's posted on Facebook.
Another video shows a discussion between Graham, the ICT CEO, Bernadette Elder, and ICT Chair, Ray Walker, where Walker can be heard saying "Getting security to stop Graham Cooper coming in wasn't what was recommended – I don't think this will go down very well..."
One of Inspiring Communities' main themes is `Strengthening Local Voices'...
After some negotiation it was agreed that, with Graham's appeal against membership disqualification still pending, he was legally entitled to attend the AGM, the bouncers were stood down and he spoke at the meeting raising his concerns to the members.
Speaking at the meeting was Councillor Stephen Ord who also raised his concerns about the charity's activities and governance. He had previously called the ICT CEO and its former Chair "power grabbing control freaks" acting "out of greed...and self interest on a number of occasions"...
Disgruntled residents continue to call for an independent inquiry into the antics of Inspiring Communities Together...
* See also related Salford Star article - East Salford Community Demands Answers From Salford Council on Controversial Charity - click here