Friday 7 February 2014

Under attack?

Well, seems a bit like open season this week. The Mail on their hobby horse anti-charity campaign on pay, an excruciating Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report on the Charity Commission, and then the ludicrous outpourings of the “Institute of Economic Affairs".

The Mail was particularly poor and biased. It could have referred to the ACEVO "Good Pay Guide" which makes all the points needed about transparency and shows how our sector is responsive and alive to concerns on top pay. If I thought it would go anywhere I'd ask for a Right of Reply.

The PAC report was, frankly, expected. The criticisms were fair but needed to be balanced by a recognition of funding cuts which limit ability to act. My worry is that this undermines our regulator when we need to have a strong Charity Commission. We also do not want a knee-jerk reaction from the Commission that forgets their role in maintaining trust and confidence because they are too busy being the sector police.

The fuss recently about Public Appointments has been fascinating. Dame Sally Morgan was criticising too many political place people being put on quangos and referenced the Chair of the Commission. She could have also referenced the composition of the new CC board. Only one person from our sector. The rest not. And far too many with political links on the right. This does not enhance the credibility of the Commission and if they are wise they will appoint more independent folk from our sector when vacancies occur. We will watch with interest who is appointed CEO. It's been made clear that they do not want to appoint someone from the third sector. We will be watching to see exactly who is appointed and their experience and knowledge of our sector. And I don't just mean giving at the Christmas appeal or a few quid in a raffle.

Then, whilst on my hobby horse, there is the IEA returning to their insultingly termed "sock puppets" diatribe. Of course what they want is for us to shut up. They want us running soup kitchens and keeping stum about the causes of poverty. I have news for them. We shan't.

And how do they square the need to diversify public service provision through more delivery through contracts with the third sector with their diatribe on "taxpayer" funded charities. I look forward to their pamphlet on sock puppet private sector companies like SERCO, A4E or Capita who also have taxpayer money for their contracts to deliver services.

Lastly, a letter my Director of Public Policy sent to 'City AM' after their article on the latest IEA publication. They printed one letter that strongly supported the "sock puppet" people, but seemingly not this one. It is efficient and makes the point well. So I reproduce it here:


The Institute of Economic Affairs’ ‘sock doctrine’ theory of charity lobbying [‘How charities lavish millions of taxpayer money on left-wing campaigns’, City AM, 5 February 2014] is fundamentally flawed. Policy-makers should welcome the input of charities. They bring unparalleled expertise and experience to the policy-making process, not to mention experience of issues on the ground.

Charities have always been instrumental in improving public policy. The charitable Anti-Slavery Society led the successful campaign for slavery’s abolition in the 1830s. Each charity must decide how best to use its resources to fulfil its public benefit mission. If a charity concludes that advocating policy change would be an effective means to advance its charitable aims, they have not only a right but a duty to do so.

The IEA has got it exactly wrong: a true ‘sock puppet’ charity would abandon its voice – and therefore its mission – after receiving government funding. It would seek to quell criticism of government action. That thousands of charities are speaking out against the Government on issues ranging from homelessness to the lobbying act - and not the IEA - should lead anyone to question who the real ‘sock puppets’ are.

Asheem Singh
Director of Public Policy
ACEVO – the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations

Indeed! ‎

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