Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Lack of charity


The charity Scope has announced that it is £8m in the red. The organisation blames the deficit on a much lower trading income than expected; a shortfall in the pension fund; delays in the sale of some of its properties; and - get this - "management and support costs running over budget by £800,000" [sic].

Scope is one of the biggest charities in the UK. In a manner of speaking it's a business, just as M&S is a business, or Virgin, or the excellent Giraffe restaurant chain. It employs 4000 people (not for much longer, it seems). You would have thought that they could employ someone to tidy up the books.

But it's not as simple as that, is it? My experience of charities is that they are almost always run by well-meaning individuals who have virtually no clue how to handle finances, or by power-crazy but inadequate people getting off on the pleasure of being a big fish in a small pool.

Naturally, Scope have blamed the government for "under-funding some services it provides, such as residential and school places, which means it has to spend an additional £4m a year." Fair enough - any government can always do more. But that's what charities are there for - making up the shortfalls left after government funding has come and gone. If they over-reach themselves, they have only themselves to blame. It goes without saying that people should give more to charity. But there is unlimited need out there, and it has to be accepted that people won't go dipping into their pockets for ever.

Sorry to sound like a Tory - I have been spending too much time musing on the leadership contest and reading Tory blogs to get their take on it. But charities are notoriously untidy ships and I have long felt they contribute to their own difficulties.


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