This morning I picked up a couple of political stories from yesterday – and it made me think about what is happening to Britain at the moment.
Firstly the The Public Administration Select Committee published a report severely criticising The Charities Act and also the Charities Commission saying the “public benefit” test for charities was “critically flawed” and singled out Charities “campaigning and political activity” for criticism, though they did not recommend that this activity should be banned.
Remember this is only a few days after the Charities Commission was roundly lambasted by the Public Accounts Committee for failing to spot that The Cup Trust had been set up as a Massive Tax Avoidance Scheme. This is the Trust that received £176 Million pounds in charitable income but only spent £55000 on charitable activities, had a single Trustee which was a company operating out of British Dependency and uber tax- haven the British Virgin Islands. Who could have spotted anything untoward going on?
Naturally The Telegraph jumped on the story complaining bitterly that charities were now either taking government funding and lobbying against government policy (how dare they) in a new “left-leaning lobby” and that Private Schools obviously past the public benefit test because they provide education to children, which must inter alia be a public benefit.
I have worked for many charities over the years. It became clear to me fairly early on, that significant change to improve nature’s chances, would only come about through changes in Government policy, regulation and legislation. And there is no doubt that the Wildlife and Countryside Act, the Habitats Directive, Climate Change Act and so on have made a positive impact for nature. None of these would ever have happened without charities working tirelessly with politicians and civil servants trying to persuade, cajole and plead their case.
Does political work by charities lead to public benefit? You decide.
On the same day new Business crusader Michael Fallon announced an effective moratorium on any new regulations (presumably this includes revisions to existing ones) that have any effect on small businesses (up to 50 employees). Business Lobby group the BCC cautiously welcomed this stance, saying it would be “keeping an eye” on Fallon to see if he delivers. Regulation was in the words of the Mail “form-filling” and “Red Tape” both undoubtedly pejorative. let’s not forget though that it was Regulation that stopped children being sent up chimneys to clean them (and die early horrible deaths). And it was political lobbying that created legislation that gave women the vote.
Both stories attest to the ongoing battle against the public realm and public good, in favour of an unregulated, market driven society, that Margaret Thatcher could only have dreamt of.