Wednesday 4 March 2015

Unpublished letter to The Times

The latest in my growing list of unpublished letters to newspapers is below. I sent it yesterday in response to this misleading article in The Times about a modest attempt by Eric Pickles to limit political campaigning on the taxpayers' shilling.

Jill Sherman's article about state-funded activism ('Charities told to toe government line', Tuesday 3rd March) claims that charities will be "stripped of grants if they campaign against the government". This is not true. Charities are free to campaign on any issue so long as they are not party political. All that the Department for Communities and Local Government requires is that political activism not be financed by the taxpayer. This is a reasonable demand which should not be conflated with the "gagging" of charities that could result from the Lobbying Act (which the Institute of Economic Affairs has opposed from the outset).

Government grants should only be given to third parties to provide services that the government would otherwise provide itself. It should be a basic principle that they are not used to hire lobbyists or campaign for legislation.

Christopher Snowdon
Institute of Economic Affairs

I suppose 'government bans charities from attacking it' is a better story than 'government department refuses to pay for lobbying'. Trouble is, it's not true.

Incidentally, The Times story was inspired by a letter of complaint to Pickles from Stephen Bubb of the Association of Chief Executive of Voluntary Organisations (ACEVO). Bubb is a former trade unionist and was a member of the notoriously loony-left Lambeth Council in the 1980s. He now picks up £105,000 a year, plus pension and benefits, as head of ACEVO, an organisation which gets hundreds of thousands of pounds from the taxpayer because, apparently, chief executives can't afford to fund their own trade association.

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