RELATIONSHIP: Boris Johnson has appointed Ray Lewis to help revive his mentoring scheme
THE MAYOR of London's former deputy – forced to resign over allegations of financial irregularities – is being paid to return to City Hall to help revive Boris Johnson’s stalled mentoring scheme.
Ray Lewis stepped down from his previous post in 2008 after it emerged he lied about being a magistrate.
He has now been appointed senior mentoring advisor to the London mayor, and will collect a £20,000-a-year salary for one day’s work a week.
For the past year, he has been working with Johnson in a voluntary capacity as an ambassador for mentoring championing the £1.3 million flagship initiative – Capital Men – to pair up black boys with role models.
But after a series of embarrassing setbacks, Lewis has been brought on board in an official capacity “to drive forward the expansion of the mayor’s mentoring programme”, City Hall revealed.
Lewis said: “For many, mentoring can have a dramatic and positive effect, helping teenagers turn their backs on the lure of gangs or criminality. I look forward to helping the scheme expand and help fill our young men with the confidence to achieve great things, through positive mentoring."
Lewis will work closely with the Greater London Authority’s (GLA) youth and education team to help organisations develop their mentoring provision.
In a statement, the mayor said: “As a passionate supporter of mentoring, I believe he is the right person to help us take forward our expansion in this area."
Johnson highlighted his track record of helping vulnerable young boys. Lewis, a former governor of a young offenders’ institution, is the executive director of Eastside Young Leaders Academy, in east London, which he founded in 2002.
But Labour’s London Assembly police & crime spokesperson Joanne McCartney raised questions over Lewis’ suitability.
In an article on the LabourList blog, McCartney was quoted saying: “Mr Lewis has admitted that he didn’t know what he was supposed to be doing in his previous role. I believe this was partly due to a lack of direction and commitment from the mayor.
“How do we know that Boris will take this any more seriously now? It’s time Boris got serious about mentoring, it is simply not good enough that he is using public money to pay someone who simply isn’t up to the job. This is yet another example of Boris getting a poor deal for Londoners.”
Lee Jasper, chair of the London race and criminal justice constortium, backed Lewis on his personal blog stating he was “one of the most effective people I know for working with young people”.
He attacked the London Assembly Labour group for trying to blame the failures of the mentoring scheme on Lewis.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that if he had been allowed to do the job his way without interference the scheme would be in much better shape,” Jasper told the Voice.
The mayor’s mentoring scheme – launched in July 2011 – set out to work with boys aged between 10 and 16-years-old in Brent, Croydon, Hackney, Haringey, Lambeth, Southwark and Waltham Forest.
It aimed to pair more than 1,000 at-risk African and Caribbean boys with inspirational mentors who would help them make positive life choices.
To date, only 122 relationships have been established – a figure well below initial targets following problems with original delivery partner University of East London (UEL).
The choice of UEL provoked outrage after it was revealed to have been chosen in favour of the highest-scoring application from a consortium of well-established black organisations.
“Lewis preferred the bid from the black consortium, but was overruled at the tendering stage”, said Jasper.
He added: “The fact is the London Assembly's Labour has been so spine-chillingly ineffective in holding Boris to account on anything at all, that they are now reduced to relying on racist sentiment in the press and public by labeling Lewis as a ‘failure’ and somehow a waste of public money.
“They have targeted the only black man appointed by the mayor in a bid to mask their own lack of effective political strategy. Meanwhile the problem that mentoring was supposed to solve – youth violence – continues to get worse.”
Leading public sector specialist, Rocket Science, is now managing a £700,000 contract.
It will allocate grants of between £75,000 and £200,000 to individual organisations to help deliver the mentoring partnerships.