The journalist William Shawcross has been appointed the next head of the Charities COmmission, replacing Dame Suzi Leather, the quango queen whose miraculous path to a position of power has been noted at BH in the past. (I think "miraculous" is the only way to describe a move from trainee probation officer to housewife to head of an NHS trust).
Shawcross seems to be a Conservative man, and according to this article on Third Sector Online, his appointment was challenged unsuccessfully by LibDems and Labour. No surprise there. What is interesting is his attitude to "fake charities" - those bodies who use charitable status to lobby for state funding. In the same interview, Shawcross was asked what he thought of this question:
Does he agree with [The Spectator's] analysis about charities’ anti-government stance? "I don’t know yet. But I think there is a very interesting discussion to be had about the way charities relate to government, and are increasingly dependent on governments of left, right and centre.
"Among members of the public who give generously to charity, it’s perhaps not widely understood how many charities have become, probably without any alternative, more dependent on government, and this should be aired and discussed. This country’s charitable history is wonderfully idiosyncratic, going back to the statute of Elizabeth – the whole common law history of charitable giving, the charitable accretion, has been remarkable.
"In that context, charities have always been independent and that independence is a very precious thing." Is it under threat? "I don’t know - I’m on a steep learning curve."
Today, in a new interview in the Telegraph, his ideas seem to have become better formed:
Charities should not become the junior partner in the welfare state; whether or not they provide services funded by Government or indeed receive grants from Government, they must remain independent and focused on their mission,” he said.
“My personal view is that some charities have become dependent on the state.
“And I think that most members of the public, when asked, would say a charity is an organisation funded from private donations, not public funds.
This all bodes well for improvement, but I doubt we will ever see a true separation of government and charities. That is, perhaps, too much to hope for.