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.