Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Thank you, Polly

Lady Toynbee's done me a huge favour this morning by providing in her polemical Guardian piece exactly the evidence I was looking for that cuts to the voluntary and charitable sectors are healthy, that the 'Big Society' reforms are turning out to be doing some good. 

The Appeal Court case lists on Bailii tell a dispiriting tale. Case after case has followed a similar pattern; a council turns down an immigrant family's demand for specific accommodation after having offered what they felt was a suitable alternative, and the local Rights / Advocacy / Law Centre (delete as appropriate) grant-funded by the same council then mounts a challenge in the courts. The poor taxpayer gets to pay for the immigrants' housing, two sets of salaries, two teams of solicitors and barristers and all the court costs irrespective of which way the court awards costs or who wins the case. In fact, most groups grant-funded by councils aren't concerned with providing a voluntary public service at all but with acting as lobbyists and special pleaders for their particular client group. Thus we're paying for both the councillors that we elect to take service decisions and the lobbyists that seek to distort their decision making process. Insanity.  

And it gets worse. Parts of the sector have evolved a sort of protection-racket in which they undertake not to make a big noise on behalf of their client groups in exchange for generous public funding that keeps their Chief Executive and senior team in salaried luxury. And Polly today usefully provides confirmation of this latter, utterly corrupt practice in her column;
Jonathan Porritt has named and shamed green groups keeping their heads down over selling off forests. It's a timely warning: those who stay quiet now will lose support in the long run. He was joined by Deborah Doane, head of the World Development Movement. "The same is happening with development NGOs – there is a fawning attitude over this government which defies belief. Many are acting in their own self-interest, at the behest of government, fearing cuts if they raise their head above the parapet. So professionalised have they become that they've lost the view of the role they're meant to play – to uphold the public good, and fight for the rights of the commons, by keeping government held to account."
 Toynbee is of course as mad as a bucket of eels and is utterly accepting that the role of tax-funded voluntary groups is to lobby, not to carry out a public service. If those tax funded 'green groups' or 'development NGOs' were actually doing anything but lobbying for their client groups there'd be no case to answer, but Polly parrots the line explicitly above - "the role they're meant to play - to uphold the public good and fight for the rights .... by keeping government held to account".

No. No. No.

The only proper role for the tax-funded voluntary sector is to do stuff.  They should have teams of volunteers out clearing underbrush from those forests, or installing bat-nesting boxes. They should be wiping old peoples' bottoms, or doing their shopping. They should be caring for the sick and disabled, visiting prisoners, distributing soup and blankets to the homeless. What they should not be doing at my expense is full-time lobbying, or 'fighting for the rights' or 'holding government to account'. 

And if this government's measures are stripping this useless, obstructive, partisan, distorting and corrupt parasitical growth from our democracy, then they're working. 

Thank you, Polly. You make the argument in favour of Cameron's measures so much clearer. 


JohnofEnfield said...

Here is a comment from a friend during a debate we were having on certain aspects of the Charity Industry.

"It appears to me that Charity has changed. There are plenty of organisations that I work with that are staffed by paid employees, have no volunteers and subsist only on public funding with no private donors. In other words businesses. But organisations like ****** that exist on the voluntary work of their members and choose to fund a benevolence are under attack. It’s madness."

So the Big State has corrupted even that most fundamental quality of human life - charity.

I would ban ANY donation by the State (or any organ of the state) to a Charity.

Span Ows said...

Great post...later I will link to it. Left a few comments on Polly's piece yesterday.

Don said...

"organisations that I work with that are staffed by paid employees, have no volunteers and subsist only on public funding with no private donors."

In other words, quangos.

JohnofEnfield said...

...masquerading as Charities


English Pensioner said...

The number of "charities" which have been moaning in the media that David Cameron's "Big Society" will fail unless they get more government money can, to my way of thinking, only be construed as a threat to try to get more money. They haven't grasped the simple idea that the plan is to do more for less using willing volunteers who are happy to try to put something into the community, because none of them have ever done anything without a huge pay packet attached.
And by the way, what a stupid name "Big Society"! To me it smacks of "Big Brother" and I would have thought that an ex-PR person like Cameron would have noticed this!

Ian R Thorpe said...

As you said, Polly does help people on the side of common sense a lot. It is not just her idiotic ideological rantings but the patronising way she presents them as if no intelligent person could possibly disagree.

Don said...

"what a stupid name "Big Society"!"

I assume it comes from Lyndon Johnson's "Great Society". Anyway, it is indeed a bad name, and not a very good idea.

The real battle will be to get rid of the fat cats of upper and middle management, throughout local government, charities and education. These people are in the position of deciding who gets sacked, and you can bet it will be ten low pay, productive workers rather than one manager. Then they will be able to point to the damage done by the cuts.