Letters: A charity boss worth every penny

These letters appear in the print addition of The Independent, 8 August, 2013


I am a retired member of the British Red Cross. I know nothing of the directors of the other charities mentioned in recent reports, but I should like to write in support of Nick Young of the British Red Cross.

More than 20 years ago, he came to us from a different field. He took care to familiarise himself with every aspect of Red Cross work and to get to know many of his myriad volunteers.

He has led our organisation to adapt to changing times, both at home and overseas, and if everyone worked as hard as he does and maintained such good relations with their people, the world would be a better place.

He is worth every penny he earns, and it will be hard to find a replacement for him when he retires.

Jinny Lumsden, London W8

Charity begins at home, doesn’t it? A staunch defence of the high incomes of chief executives of charities was launched this week with the well-tried argument, usually reserved for bankers, being “We have to attract talent”.

There are more than 250.000 registered charities in the UK. Some are tax-dodging devices for those who want to appear to be philanthropic in their motives, but most do “good works”, mostly for the poor.

It has been claimed that CEOs of charities get on average £58.000 per year.

One CEO of a charity  housing association gets over £200,000. And 78 per cent of its tenants are on housing benefit.

Another charity I know of has “volunteer” in its title and its CEO takes an annual salary in excess of £230.000.

While many of these charities use the buzz words of transparency, consultation, good practice and democracy, in reality these are all sidestepped.

Could this be called a scam?

Pat Edlin, London N1

The former head of Oxfam Barbara Stocking who was paid more than £100,000 a year, said she took a 30 per cent pay cut when leaving her job at the NHS.

Well, that tells you NHS management is even more overpaid than that of charities.

The Government should cut back on the health budget – not healthcare but salaries for management.

As for the public, they should think twice about donating to charities.

John Boylan, Hatfield, Hertfordshire

It is perverse to blame victims for their abuse

A Crown Prosecution Service barrister has been criticised for calling a 13-year-old girl abuse victim “predatory” and “sexually experienced”, apparently as a criticism of her.

It is perverse in the extreme to hold it against a child victim that they are in some way to blame for the abuse they suffered.

It suggests a strand of thought in our own culture that victims of sexual abuse or rape have become impure and blameworthy and not deserving of help, simply by virtue of having sexual experiences, even if forced upon them – an attitude we see and condemn in other cultures.

Bob Morgan, Thatcham, West Berkshire

I don’t understand the fuss about the barrister calling the 13-year-old girl “predatory”. When I was at school, some (and I want to emphasise, only some) of the girls weren’t just predatory, they were sexually aggressive to the point of being terrifying.

I have long held the view that some cases – like the teacher and pupil who absconded to France a few months back – are not purely the fault of the older party, but are also encouraged or initiated by the younger. That doesn’t make it right, of course, but it needs to be accounted for as a factor.

The idea that all kids are as innocent as the driven snow is demonstrably false, and this issue will never be sorted until all sides of the problem are honestly addressed.

Paul Harper, London E15

Fracking is old world not new

It’s all very well for Dominic Lawson (“Protesters know nothing about our rich rural history”, 6 August) to highlight the industrial history of the High Weald, but it’s the future that people are rightly worried about.

There are genuine concerns about the impact of shale gas and oil extraction, particularly if fracking occurs, including water pollution and the vast quantities of fresh water it requires.

If we want to play our part in tackling catastrophic climate change, we must wean the nation off fossil fuels – not find new sources of energy to pollute our atmosphere. The UK’s renewable energy potential is one of the best in the world. By developing home-grown clean power and cutting energy waste we can create thousands of new jobs, boost energy security and slash emissions.

Shale gas and oil have been hugely hyped. There’s plenty of evidence that they won’t lead to cheaper fuels bills. It’s time to end our fixation with dirty and damaging fossil fuels and build a power system that can tackle the energy challenges of the 21st century.

Craig Bennett, Campaigns and Policy Director, Friends of the Earth, London N1

Thank goodness for the recent, balanced unemotional review of fracking by Dominic Lawson. I am a retired chemical engineer, having worked in oil refining, petrochemicals and pharmaceuticals in 27 countries.

I live in Dorchester and am well aware of the oil extraction plant which he mentioned. Oil and natural gas leak continuously from the Jurassic Coast and its cliffs and have done for ages. I have pictures of flames on the beach where gas has been ignited by lightning, bits of glass acting as magnifiers or very hot pebbles.

The first references I have found go back to newspaper articles in 1874 reporting the enthusiasm of the local Rev Henry Moule to harness these “gifts”. At the time, economics and lack of technology defeated the proposals.

We should remember that the experiences from the US are typical of that country – rather wild. UK geology could well be very different, and there are strict UK limits on the chemicals that can be used.

The “earthquakes” near Blackpool were minor tremors likened by a local to a heavy lorry passing by his house.

I am undecided whether to go ahead or not. We need data to make a rational decision and this is what the current drilling is trying to get. Even if the data suggests a technical feasibility, the economics may not stack up (until later).

We need to avoid the usual either/or decision (fracking vs renewables): we need a suitable mixture of independent energy sources.

Dr Eric Evans, Dorchester, Dorset

Imagine Gibraltar was Land’s End

I, like most Spaniards, consider myself a friend of the British, I think Britain is a wonderful country. From that position, I should like to ask the British some questions relating to Gibraltar.

First, imagine Gibraltar was the other way round. Suppose the Spanish Armada had taken, in the 16th century, a tiny piece of England, eg Land’s End, some 2.6 square miles. After they took it, they built a military base, removed the English people and brought settlers from different countries. Spain, thanks to its dominant international role, compelled Britain to sign a treaty declaring that Spain could keep that English corner.

So, would you still give extra land to Spain so it can build an airport and let Spanish planes fly over British soil to land on the colony’s airport? Let the colony convert the place into a tax-haven territory? Let smugglers operate from the colony? Let the colony build a reef so that English fishermen could not fish in the area?

Don’t do unto others what you don’t want others to do unto you.

Ramon Michan, Puerto de la Cruz, Tenerife

William Hague shouldn’t pussyfoot around with the Spanish regarding the sovereignty of Gibraltar. Just tell them to back off or the British will boycott Spain for their holidays next year. Then they’ll have something to moan about.

Peter Flynn, Sheffield

Welcome to the world of 2014

You are rudely awakened at 4am by a minor fracking tremor and then again at 5.30am when the bloke who rents your drive parks his lorry on it.

At 7am you get the kids ready for the local free school, where none of the teachers are qualified and there are 45 kids to each class, but at least you don’t have to get a packed lunch ready as the meals are sponsored.

You open the curtains promptly at 8am – you don’t want the neighbours to think you are a shirker. Then you spend the rest of the day desperately hoping for your employer to phone to see if you are getting any work, and pay, today. Welcome to Toryland 2014.

Simon G Gosden, Rayleigh, Essex

Have no wheels, will travel

Sigrid Marceau’s student daughter (letter, 6 August) doesn’t have to drive. I had no car as a student and managed perfectly well on foot and using public transport.

In fact, I’m into my fifth decade and have never owned a car. There is always an alternative means of getting to a destination. Even following the birth of my son, after which all and sundry insisted: “You’ll need a car now”, vehicle ownership didn’t prove necessary.

Neither I nor my family have had to miss an event. And it’s so much easier to engage with the world on foot, on a train or from the top deck of a bus. Sigrid’s daughter may enjoy being liberated from her car.

Michael O’Hare, Northwood, Middlesex

Admired admiral?

Your article “Officer who sank the Belgrano dies, aged 81” (6 August) states that Admiral Sir John Woodward sought a change of rules of engagement to give the order to sink the Belgrano “which was steaming away and sank with the loss of 323 Argentine lives”.

In spite of the above, you then publish on the same day an obituary which unequivocally praises the admiral for having had “spirit enough to step out of line when the moment called”.

Julie Harrison, Hertford

Not so full Monty

Great news that Monty Panesar is leading the way in showing how disaffected and disenfranchised British Asian youth can realise their place in this damaged society. My dog claims similar dominion over his local lamp posts.

Alistair Vincent, Barnet

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