Wednesday, 6 January 2016
Christmas was relatively quiet, apart from doing a slot on the Tuesday of Christmas week on "You and Yours". They woke me up and as I refused to drag into the studio they did it down the line. My sister said it was excellent to hear a sensible and robust defence of fundraising against a see of whinging and moaning about getting phoned too much.
And then there was a story in the Daily Telegraph about the Cabinet Office plan to extend FoI to charities. I doubt they will do this when they think it through- imagine all those churches and colleges and volunteer sports clubs having to field FoI questions about what they do. "And how much communion wine did you consume last year Vicar?'.
But as I said there can be no objection in principle to being open with the public about how government money is spent when we receive contracts or grants for delivery of services. Indeed we should be up front and open about this. Using the opportunity to tell about our impact. What we don't want is a blunderbuss approach that has us tied up in knots answering enquires that have little to do with our impact and are often malicious or there to fill a spot in a sparse news week. Far better to tackle this through a voluntary code, for example, that would cover the organisations that have big contracts for delivery. And obviously, if this were aimed at charities, you would have to create a system that targeted a university or local care home but did not cover SERCO or Capita. Indeed, its odd that in this leaked story there was no reference to obligations on the private sector- yet government contracts are significantly bigger for private companies. How ludicrous it would be for FoI to cover small charities delivering a work programme contract as part of a prime but the prime itself totally free of FoI. So I'm not expecting this to go far. But it does underline how we need to be open to scrutiny in what we do. Indeed not be afraid to be open but use this as an opportunity to sell the value added we give when we deliver services for citizens and communities.FoI is a good piece of legislation that promotes good government- but the aim was to open up government not target the local church or small business.
So the Old year ended much as it has been over 2015 with more digs at charity. But as Peggy Archer said on the Archers on Sunday - "I like the new year- its always so full of possibility."