The current challenges facing the charitable sector from the Government are significant. The way in which the problems affecting a small number of charities who work outside of the UK has been handled indicates where the Government is focused. They were notified of problems with Oxfam long ago and the Government had two choices. They could have recognised these problems in the context of a small number of huge organisations whose failings are significant but do not represent a problem with the sector, or they could give in to their colleagues demanding an end to overseas aid and treat the problems with Oxfam and Save the Children as if they are the tip of a huge iceberg. A meaningful comparator would be if the Government treated the problems they have encountered with businesses such as G4S, Serco, Carillion and Virgin along with Stagecoach as indicators that all businesses are deeply flawed. The reality is the Government have not only ignored many of the problems with these very businesses but they have continued to respect businesses more generally as a vital part of society. However in the case of charities, not only has Penny Mordaunt claimed she will deny funding to overseas aid charities that do not meet Governmental standards (few can sink that low) but she is also carrying out an investigation into that small part of the charity sector. To add to this sense of attack Tracey Crouch has announced that she will carry out a review into safeguarding across the whole of the UK based charitable sector. A review into safeguarding in the UK is not a bad thing, but to imply that charities are less well organised in this area than other parts of society is deeply worrying. What about a safeguarding focus on the entertainment industry, or education, or businesses that work in the care sector or even Parliament itself. All of these areas are at least as risky as charities, and most do not have the level of scrutiny that charities do. These issues follow on from a focus on lobbying and political involvement during the tenure of the coalition when the Government focused on charities and trade unions as being a problem and virtually ignored lobbying which came from the business sector.
To find a silver lining to such clouds does require a great deal of patience. However in the last few hours, following the announcement earlier this month that Baroness Tina Stowell has been selected as the Governments choice for new Chair of the Charity Commission she was interviewed by the DCMS select committee and they have unanimously rejected her appointment as this report explains. As I wrote back at the beginning of the month, although I have strong concerns about the appointment of a politician to such a role, she had at least agreed to resign from the Tory Party and also her experience whilst relatively limited, was at least a great deal more than her predecessor whose appointment was never challenged. However following on from her appearance Tina has apparently been rejected on several levels. Personally I would welcome the appointment of someone from within the sector and outside of the political environment. We would then have the chance of the Commission speaking on behalf of the sector and bringing its concerns on the Government attitude into the public arena. Perhaps at last Parliament is seeing how important this post is, bearing in mind the behaviour of this Government and its coalition predecessor.
The tweets shown above date back to 2nd February.
PS (late this afternoon) – Unfortunately the Government has now overruled the select Committee and has appointed Tina Stowell – so much for my silver cloud