Margaret Moran, Labour MP, made the headlines after claiming £22k for treating dry rot at her home in Southampton – more than 100 miles from her Luton constituency. Since then our colleague Miles Johnson has been asking questions about a business she runs called Equality Networks. Here is Miles’ latest dispatch:
Margaret Moran, the Labour MP for Luton South forced to stand down over her parliamentary expenses claims, warned Jacqui Smith, then Home Secretary, against a Muslim organisation in her constituency which was competing for funding with her own non-profit company.
Documents seen by the Financial Times show that in July 2007 Ms Moran sent a letter to Jacqui Smith “to raise concerns” over a Luton-based community organisation was receiving public funding and had applied for “Preventing Violent Extremism” funding from the Department of Communities and Local Government.
Funding applications and letters show that at the same time Equality Networks, a non-profit organisation partially run and staffed from Ms Moran’s constituency office, had made a £25,000 application for the same funding. Neither group received funding that year.
In the letter to Ms Smith – copied to Hazel Blears, who at that time headed the DCLG, Kevin Compton, the chief executive of Luton Council which distributes the funding in Luton, and a divisional commander of Bedfordshire Police – Ms Moran alleged that the group were closely linked to “the Saudi funded Wahabi mosque in Luton” and were creating “Muslim zealots”.
At no point in the letter to the Home Secretary does Moran mention Equality Networks or that the company, which her fiancé is one of two directors, was competing alongside other organisations with the Ethnic Minority Training Project for the funding.
In the letter sent to the Home Secretary Ms Moran wrote: “…this group are not only, I’m told, receiving Home Office funding, but have also as I understand it, applied for the DCLG ‘Extremism and Pathfinder funding! I would appreciate confidentiality in this, but a thorough investigation is urgently required”.
Luton Council told the FT that that EQN and the community organisation, called the Ethnic Minority Training Project, were in direct competition with each other and the organisations who applied for funds during the application process but that neither received funding that year.
“They were all applying for PVE pathfinder funding so yes they were all in direct competition with each other,” a council spokeswoman said.
“All of the 15 organisations applied for the same pot of money – PVE pathfinder funding – however the Council and its key partners agreed a set of five broad key project themes which were specifically appropriate to Luton’s approach. Applicants were asked to specify under which theme the application has been made”.
When Equality Networks heard that its funding application had been rejected, Ms Moran wrote to the Luton council on August 17, 2007 on commons headed note paper “to express my concern and amazement”, and to ask why EQN was declined funds and which groups received funding in its place.