[Hpn] UK Homeless Unit depupty's AWARD 'is cronyism' critics say - 7 Jan 2001 (fwd) Jan 2001 (fwd)

Tom Boland wgcp@earthlink.net
Sun, 7 Jan 2001 12:11:21 -0800 (PST)


UK Homeless Unit depupty's AWARD 'is cronyism' critics say: http://www.telegraph.co.uk:80/et?ac=000140326706927&rtmo=0xK2iGbq&atmo=0xK2iGbq& pg=/et/01/1/7/nhome07.html FWD [Lomdon] Telegraph ISSUE 2053 - Sunday 7 January 2001 OBE FOR DEPUTY AT HOMELESS UNIT 'IS CRONYISM' by Martin Bentham, Social Affairs Correspondent THE government was facing fresh accusations of "cronyism" last night after it emerged that the 28-year-old assistant director of its Rough Sleepers' Unit has received an OBE after just one year's work with the homeless. Anne Wallis received her award in the New Year's Honours List after being nominated by her immediate superior, Louise Casey, the Government's "homelessness tsar", for what officials described as her "key role" in the Whitehall unit. The honour has bemused people working in homeless charities, however, who say that there are many more deserving candidates, some of whom have put in years of unpaid work. John Bird, the editor of Big Issue, the magazine sold to raise money for the homeless, said he wanted to know "what the hell is going on", adding that the award was "inept". Nigel Waterson, the Conservative spokesman on the homeless, was also critical, saying: "This looks like another example of Labour cronyism. We know that Louise Casey, the so-called homeless tsar, is paid about &pound;90,000 and no doubt her staff are well paid too. So I fail to see why her deputy should merit this honour, particularly after only one year, when there are many people who have worked for years with the homeless, often for nothing." Mr Waterson also questioned whether the unit had achieved enough for anyone within it to deserve any accolade. He said: "They have spent a great deal of money with very little success. The reasons for this award deserve further investigation." Ms Wallis, who previously worked for Westminster Strategy, a lobbying company, and for the Children's Society, was abroad last week and unavailable for comment. Ms Casey was also overseas and therefore unable to explain why she had nominated her deputy, although Ben Cooper, a spokesman for the unit, insisted that the award was merited. "She's 28, so she's very young to get one and it took us all by surprise, but it is well deserved. It is for the work she has done over the last year or so working with the Rough Sleepers' Unit, which has had quite significant success in reducing the number of people who are on the street. "Anne's work has involved a variety of things that are beyond what you would expect in a normal Civil Service communications role, dealing with people who are dangerous and find themselves in dangerous situations. She has worked closely with Louise in her street work and put herself in some quite demanding and challenging situations." Mr Cooper said that Ms Casey had also recommended her deputy for the award because of her previous work with children's charities, including a campaign against child prostitution which she had organised while working at the Children's Society. The Cabinet Office, which is responsible for the award of honours, said, however, that the OBE had been given purely for Ms Wallis's work with the homeless. A spokesman said: "The reason that Anne Wallis has been honoured is because of her work with the Rough Sleepers' Unit. It has had quite significant success since it was set up." Mr Bird, whose magazine has received a number of complaints about the honour, said: "I'm interested in finding out what the hell is going on. I can't understand the motivation. It seems politically inept to be giving something to someone for a year's service to the homeless. Some people are going to see it as cronyism. Why would one give an award at this rather sensitive time when the jury is out on whether the Rough Sleepers' Unit has been successful. It seems a questionable time to do that." The new row follows a clash last week between Ms Casey and Shaks Ghosh, the head of Crisis, a charity running shelters for the homeless. Ms Ghosh claimed that people were likely to die on the streets of London because the Government was failing to solve the homeless problem, but Ms Casey responded by accusing Ms Ghosh of "scaremongering" to attract publicity. The Rough Sleepers' Unit, which was established just over a year ago, aims to reduce the number of people sleeping on the streets of London by two thirds by 2002. It claims already to have cut the total from about 1,850 when it was set up, to a figure of 1,180 in June last year. It says that indications from a count last month show that there has since been a further drop in homelessness. 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