Key points from letter of 19 January 2024 from IFN’s Co-Chairs to Secretary of State
This page contains key points from a letter from IFN's Co-Chairs to the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, the Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, on 19 January 2024.
- As of 19 January, over six months have passed since Chris Jones, Director, Communities and Integration wrote on 7 July to IFN’s Executive Director to offer to the Inter Faith Network for the UK, subject to listed conditions, up to £155,000 of grant funding for the period July 2023 to March 2024 and to let it know that the £45,000 underspend from the previous financial year could be retained.
- There has still been no GFA (Grant Funding Agreement) provided, despite IFN having provided in a timely manner all requested information.
- IFN has received no letter or email from Ministers or officials indicating that there is a particular issue. Nor has the Secretary of State, his colleagues or officials taken up repeated offers from IFN, such as in the Co-Chairs’ letter to the Secretary of State of 1 December, to discuss the position and any outstanding questions that the Department might have.
- The only communications that IFN has received from the Department have been occasional emails from officials – prompted by IFN enquiries - saying that the GFA process is being progressed. On the basis of those responses, as explained in successive communications to the Secretary of State and Department, IFN’s Board has continued to judge that there is a reasonable basis for concluding that insolvent liquidation can be avoided and IFN’s work can continue. It took the statement by DLUHC Minister Stephen Hoare at the end of an Adjournment Debate on 10 January that the Department would be making an announcement ‘in short order’ to be a further marker that the GFA continued to be in process.
- The Government is presumably not intending intentionally to shut down the UK’s inter faith linking body – a body the significance of which it is aware, and to which it offered funding in July. However, its actions, with the extended delay on provision of a GFA and access to funding, will have precisely that effect since the charity cannot continue to operate with a £200,000 shortfall in its budget.
- IFN has been the subject of three articles by the Sunday Telegraph which refer, inter alia, to views within the Department relating to IFN and Hamas and IFN and membership of it by the Muslim Council of Britain. Since references to purported views in the Department were not attributed, and the formal Department response included did not tally with those references, IFN did not ascribe these views to the Secretary of State or his officials. However, in the event that the points about the MCB in the Sunday Telegraph of 30 (online version) /31 (shorter, print version) December reflect an actual view held by the Secretary of State or his Department, the letter of 3 January from IFN’s Co-Chairs to the Editor of the Sunday Telegraph is relevant. https://www.interfaith.org.uk/news/responses
- The IFN office has, in the past, asked officials for clearer guidance on what is intended by the term ‘extremism’. It was referred to Chapter 5 of the Charity’s Commission’s toolkit ‘Protecting charities from abuse for extremist purposes’ about which it was already aware and the guidance in which it already follows. No additional guidance has been forthcoming. It also spoke with staff at the Charity Commission some years back about what the charity’s responsibilities were if any member organisation was accused of wrongdoing. It is IFN’s clear understanding from that and from subsequently sought legal guidance that complainants must report suspected criminal wrongdoing to the police.
- At no point has IFN been informed, for example, that the Government’s own non-engagement with MCB (or other bodies with which it does not engage) precludes it funding charities or statutory bodies having it in membership or working with it.
- The letter included a further offer to meet with the Secretary of State, Minister for Faith or officials.