For the Big Society to flourish it is crucial to see the privatisation of charities – far too many of whom have become a branch of the state bureaucracy. This doesn't mean that state financing of charities should end. Often it will make sense for it to be increased where a charity can carry out a necessary social role more effectively than the state.
But it does mean busting the cartel of big charities and giving the small and medium sized charities an even break. Civitas offered an analysis or how charities have become swallowed by the state in this paper four years ago. A website entitled fakecharities.org has started chronicling charities which get over 10% of their funds from the Government and engage in lobbying. Personally I think often state funding would provide value for money. But greater scrutiny is welcome. Any charity receiving state funding, above a modest threshold, should have to apply the same spending and salary transparency rules being applied to local government. They should also have to apply the same rules restricting lobbying.
Often it is charities that get the most state funding that are the most concerned with lobbying and PR. For example the British Refugee Council and the Disability Alliance. There is Shelter with over £10 million a year of state handouts including over £3 million from the DCLG. It lobbies away against the Government under the direction of its Chief Executive, Campbell Robb, who used to work for the Labour Party.
Or there is the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations headed by the former Labour councillor Sir Steve Bubb. According to fakecharities.org it gets 44%, £1,4 million, of its funds from the taxpayer but the true figure is probably much higher. It lobbies away giving Sir Steve a platform to sneer at the Government over their Big Society plans. But what tangible benefit does ACEVO provide?
The good news is that Shaun Bailey has been made a Big Society Ambassador and this will give him the chance to fight the corner for small charities in Whitehall. Shaun stood as the Conservative candidate for Hammersmith at the last General Election. He is also the founder of a youth charity called My Generation which is based in North Kensington. They focus on practical results rather than admin. This led the Labour Party to smear them for getting their accounts in late to the Charity Commission. But when they did arrive it was possible to see what a worthwhile job they were doing on a total budget not much higher than the CEO salary of one of the big charities. See film clips for an idea of their work.
Shaun has spoken out against the "vested interests" of the big charities. Cue squealing from Sir Steve Bubb who presented th comment as an "attack on charities" without mentioning that Shaun runs a real one himself.