Letters: Kids Company looks bad for the Big Society

The following letters appear in the August 10 edition of The Independent

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The Kids Company debacle is a fine example of David Cameron’s Big Society in action. Its collapse is an indictment of the policy of cutting funds to local councils and “hoping” that charities will be able to take up the slack.

It is typical of the sloppy thinking that has become the hallmark of this Government. This abdication of responsibility is bound to end badly without oversight from central administrators. The sight of Mr Cameron wringing his hands and blaming everyone else is particularly galling.

Simon G Gosden
Rayleigh, Essex


I am the trustee of one charity and a former paid employee (now volunteer) with another. It has long been the case that trusts and other grant-giving bodies will only fund “new” projects or capital expenditure, when what successful charities need is the money to continue the excellent work they are already doing. They know that their most valuable asset is their people and they do not need to be constantly buying new equipment or starting  new projects.

In the past they were able to obtain some of this core funding from local authorities but, as the councils find their grants from central government reduced, they have to squeeze the charities.

How sad it will be to find a new organisation obtaining start-up funding to work with disadvantaged children when all the Kids Company expertise has been dissipated.

Gill Clayton
Sevenoaks, Kent


Your editorial “Faith, hope and charity” (6 August) points to supposed “weak regulation” as a contributory factor in the failure of Kids Company.

We provide charity trustees with guidance on managing financial difficulties. But it is not the Charity Commission’s role as regulator to “save” charities in financial difficulty or prevent them from winding up. Many charities live a hand-to-mouth existence, and many fold or cut back services because they are unable to source sufficient funds. 

We have published a statement on our website explaining our regulatory engagement with  Kids Company over the  past month.

You refer to an adverse Public Accounts Committee report into the Charity Commission published in 2012. That report has been superseded by the NAO’s report of January 2015, which acknowledged our progress in becoming a proactive, robust regulator.   

Paula Sussex
Chief Executive, the Charity Commission


The full facts about Kids Company are not in the public domain, so any comment should be cautious.

But one relevant theme is the known problem, which arises in the worlds of both charity and business, of the charismatic founder (or group of founders) without whom the organisation would never have got off  the ground, but who continue to run it in the same way as it grows beyond the size at which drive, dynamism and flair are enough to sustain it, and needs a more structured form of corporate governance.

That is the responsibility of a charity’s trustees, and they need skill, determination and courage to lead and manage the necessary cultural change.

The Charity Commission does not have the resources to supervise all charities which need to effect this change. In addition, the charity sector is over-populated with small, narrow-purpose charities. 

One solution might be that charitable status is granted for an initial period of 10 years, after which a charity has to apply for renewal and pay for an assessment of whether it has a sustainable structure and sufficiently broad purpose, failing which it should close or merge.

Philip Goldenberg
Woking, Surrey


Elect Corbyn and be like Denmark

Thank you for allowing Jeremy Corbyn to speak for himself (Voices, 7 August). The “hard-left” smear campaign is such nonsense.

There are two forms of polity in the free world today: neo-liberalism and social democracy. The former is exemplified in its purest form by the US, the latter by Denmark.

America is a Darwinian jungle of competitive individualism, with low taxation and minimal, third-world welfare for its poor; a predictably violent society in which law and order is enforced by large numbers of armed police, and the well-off insist on their right to own (and use) a gun.

Denmark is a contented, peaceful, successful welfare state based on high, progressive taxation which no one appears to resent paying, since they are all so richly rewarded through free education, free health care and generous social security. Crime levels are low, and you seldom see a policeman on the streets.

Denmark is not “hard-left”, in many ways it is rather conservative. It understands wealth-creation very well. The difference is that it is community-spirited and places emphasis upon the value of social capital.

Jeremy Corbyn, alone among the Labour leadership contenders, offers the hope of Britain perhaps becoming a little bit more like Denmark. The others offer only the despair of continued drift towards an Tea Party hegemony.

Bob Gilmurray


Are the cracks beginning to show? Andy Burnham has promised that if he becomes Prime Minister he will nationalise the railways “line by line by line”. Has someone realised that Jeremy Corbyn touched a real chord?

Bill Fletcher
Cirencester, Gloucester


A reminder that Keynes was right

Ben Chu (6 August) sets out the case which Labour ought to have been making throughout the recent disaster at the polls.

It is the classic Keynesian argument. In a depression, the major entity with investment capital is government. Large investment in infrastructure development stimulates growth by employing workers, who pay tax and spend: ancillary enterprises are encouraged to supply construction materials and machinery. This was the approach of the Roosevelt administration to the US Depression of the 1930s.

Ed Balls is an economist with impressive credentials. He shied away during the election from outlining the Keynesian case and also from challenging the Tories by asking them what would have been their answer to the potential collapse of the banks in 2008-9. Would they have allowed them to fail? What alternative was there to investing public money in these major financial institutions ?

Short-termism has bedevilled both private and public investment policies over the past 50 years. Ben Chu has done a great service in pointing this out.

Derek Watts
Lewes, East Sussex


Japan at peace, Britain at war

As Japan reflects upon the deaths of more than 140,000 of its citizens from the two atomic bombs, there is some consolation in the knowledge that in the subsequent 70 years, not a single Japanese soldier has died in conflict. In contrast, more than 4,500 British service personnel have since perished, with many more sustaining life-changing injuries.

Britain is the only European nation to undertake the role of confronting Isis and the only Nato member, apart from America, that considers the necessity of maintaining a Trident deterrent.

With substantial cutbacks to our social services and growing poverty in both our young and old generations, it is surely time for our elected politicians to reflect upon this nation’s priorities and finally to resist Britain’s warmongering elite.

Patrick Lavender
Kilkhampton, Cornwall


No ‘rotten apples’ on benefits

When billions of pounds’ worth of fraudulent behaviour in the City is exposed, it’s always due to “rotten apples” or “rogue traders”, framing any notions of systemic corruption as overreaction and negating any need to take radical steps to address these “failures” within the financial sector. (“Libor scandal: Did Tom Hayes’ punishment fit the crime?”, 6 August)

Contrast this to the way anyone found claiming benefits while doing a bit of work on the side is portrayed – which is invariably representative of benefit claimants as a whole, about to bring the economy crashing down due to their selfishness and greed, and providing clear evidence of why the benefits system itself should be dismantled.

Roddy Keenan
Stamford, Lincolnshire


The migrants nobody minds

In 2014, the last year for which there are official statistics, nearly three million people migrated within the UK, mainly from Wales and the North of England. Here and there it must have caused some pressure on local services such as schools and hospitals, but it was dealt with without much fuss.

Yet a few thousand migrants, many refugees in the most desperate situation, trying to cross from Calais have generated a wave of hysteria and hostility. I wonder why?

Simenon Honoré
Tunbridge Wells, Kent