Posts Tagged: politics

The sector hustings – now with added Ukip

As we come within touching distance of parliament’s dissolution, on Tuesday I attended the social leaders debate organised by Acevo and CAF, featuring Rob Wilson, the Conservative Minister for Civil Society; Lisa Nandy, his Labour shadow, Tom Brake, the Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader of the House of Commons, Nathan Gill, leader of Ukip Wales and an MEP for Wales, and Bill Rigby, chair of the Harrogate & District Green Party. Read more on The sector hustings – now with added Ukip…

B****cks or knitting? You choose…

A cartoon by Steve Bell a while ago showed a masked robber in the Big Society Bank being told that they didn’t have any money as such – only bollocks. “Put the bollocks in a bag, and hurry,” says the robber.

The original of this cartoon was presented as a farewell gift yesterday to Nick Hurd, who resigned as minister for civil society in July, by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations. Hurd was, of course, the apostle of social investment and one of his proudest achievements was the launch of the bank – actually called Big Society Capital – in 2012. Read more on B****cks or knitting? You choose……

First impressions of the new charities minister

Ask tricky questions, went the instructions at an event hosted by St John Ambulance on Wednesday, where I had my first opportunity to met Brooks Newmark, the new Minister for Civil Society. “But please be polite when you do.”

That instruction wasn’t for me, but the dozen young people present – St John Ambulance volunteers and Volunteer Police Cadets – two of the 14 youth groups benefitting from a new £10m pot of Libor fines, which Newmark was there to publicise. Read more on First impressions of the new charities minister…

Is the National Citizen Service worth the investment?

The latest independent evaluation of the government-backed National Citizen Service, which is delivered by a range of organisations including many charities, is a seminar in positivity.

The findings from researchers at Ipsos Mori reveal a highly popular youth scheme – no less than 97 per cent of participants who took part in 2013 would recommend the programme. It also shows the programme helped young people to improve a range of skills. Read more on Is the National Citizen Service worth the investment?…

Fundraising critics keep chugging away… so watch out

It’s been a tough old week for fundraising. First, Channel 4’s Dispatches programme sends a couple of undercover reporters to dish dirt on the internal goings-on at two of the country’s best-known fundraising agencies. Then a disgruntled volunteer fundraiser launches a tirade about “chugging”, as he persistently calls it, claiming that paid street fundraisers are having a negative impact on those who collect money for charity for free. Read more on Fundraising critics keep chugging away… so watch out…

Hurd leaves a long relationship

When Nick Hurd was introduced as the longest-serving charities minister
at a reception at the Institute of Fundraising convention last week, he muttered something enigmatic about how much longer it would last. Whether under pressure or otherwise, it seems likely he had already knew by then that he would be going. Read more on Hurd leaves a long relationship…

Should think tanks be charities at all?

There are some senior figures in the Conservative Party who are not very keen on campaigning charities. Oliver Letwin, now Minister of State at the Cabinet Office with the role of providing policy advice to the Prime Minister, was more vocal than most about this before the election.

There is a certain irony, then, surrounding the case of Atlantic Bridge, an educational charity which was set up by Liam Fox, the Secretary of State for Defence, and has had Conservative luminaries including the Foreign Secretary, William Hague, on its advisory board.

The irony comes because this week’s regulatory report by the Charity Commission on Atlantic Bridge leaves the indelible impression that this is a campaigning organisation. It devotes itself to advancing a version of the ‘special relationship’ between the UK and US that was in the ascendant in the Thatcher-Reagan years.

But the commission’s rap over the knuckles for Atlantic Bridge comes not because it has campaigned – campaigning is permissible for charities if it is pursuit of their charitable objects. The censure comes because it promoted a view of transatlantic relations that was closely aligned with the Conservative Party.

The commission has told Atlantic Bridge that if it wants to conform to its educational charitable purpose it should approach its subject matter in a manner that is less party political, and that to demonstrate its public benefit it should provide more information about its activities.

This time it’s the Tories. But the mind drifts back to the case of the Smith Institute, which was similarly criticised by the commission two years ago for not keeping sufficient distance from the policies of the Labour Party. Some politicians and policy wonks, it seems, just can’t resist trying to use charities for political purposes.

The commission said in 2008 that it was going to produce additional guidance about how how think tanks can conform with the requirement for educational charities to provide public benefit, but this has not yet materialised.

In the meantime some commentators have suggested that the regime for think tanks should be more relaxed than for other charities because their reason for being, and the benefits they bring, are essentially political – and often specifically party political.

This is arguably true. But perhaps the best way of squaring the circle is to veer the other way and be much more careful about granting charitable status to think tanks. Indeed, when you look at the particular focus of Atlantic Bridge and the people involved in it, you have to wonder how it ever got charitable status in the first place.

Read more on Should think tanks be charities at all?…