A Letter to the Financial Times                                 Cover 9781849548038                                          

Merryn Somerset Webb (Britain’s charitable giving model undermines democracy, 24.2.2018) misunderstands charity’s contribution to democracy by focusing on abuse of power in some of our best known large charities.

Her criticism of Oxfam and the misuse of public as well as private money is valid. Public benefit and value for money should prevail but she is wrong to say that 99 per cent of charitable organisations should lose Gift Aid because without thousands of small, local and vulnerable charities (for whom tax relief is vital), our social fabric would be even more damaged than it has been by reductions in local authority spending of up to 50 per cent in the poorest parts of the UK since 2010. 

The relationship between charitable giving, tax relief and the public interest is complex.   Our NHS depends upon academic research almost entirely funded by £3 billion a year of charitable donations enhanced by tax relief.

We are in the midst of profound change but the need to find new ways of raising social capital seems to be beyond the capacity of politicians. Pioneering charities are providing the leadership we need as they have often done. Working together at a local level with others in the non- profit, public and private sectors, they are showing how to address some of our most acute social challenges.  Thus tax relief encourages private giving for public benefit.

The greatest threat to our democracy is not Gift Aid but inequality and plutocracy. Greater commitment and participation by all of us, by giving more money and time in addition to paying our taxes, will strengthen our democracy. Tax relief should be seen in that light rather than in the murky morals of a few.


CLICK HERE: 'Our Common Good' by john Nickson