Beneath the cynical rhetoric of David Cameron’s “big society” there was a proposition. It said to the voluntary sector: we need you. As we cut public spending we hope social provision can – at least to face-saving extent – step in. We will (they implied) cherish you, dish out knighthoods to your top people and invite them to join commissions and parlays.
Suddenly, the Tories turned. Tory MPs such as Priti Patel were encouraged to recruit the media in attacking charity “fat cats”. The cabinet sent the hapless third sector minister, Nick Hurd, to conferences to explain that not only would there be no extra money for charities to pick up the pieces from cuts to councils but they would have to put up with severe reductions in support.
When Chancellor George Osborne proposed cutting tax relief on charity donations, was it an accident or part of some grand design?
It’s been the same story with fundraising, where the NCVO’s Sir Stuart Etherington is proposing complicated new machinery that, even if it is really self-regulation, looks and smells like at least one new quango .
Meanwhile, the government is running a coach and horses through the charitable status of housing associations.
And, a further sign of alienation, charities appear to have been left out of the Osborne devolution agenda.
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