UK Charities Fear Axe Blows

October 24, 2010; Source: Financial Times | No one doubts that charities in the United Kingdom will have to share some of the pain as the government makes plans to cut billions in public funding. But if predictions prove true that charities stand to lose between $4.4 billion and $7.3 billion in yearly grants, observers say those cuts will also harm British Prime Minister David Cameron’s plans for nonprofits to take on more of the work of providing former government services.

Dame Suzi Leather, who heads the country’s Charity Commission, says if the government institutes such draconian cuts it will be “pulling the rug” from under its own Big Society Agenda. Speaking to the BBC, Dame Suzi said, “If you cut the charities, you are cutting our ability to help each other. You’re cutting what structures are enabling us. That’s what Big Society is all about.” Responding for the government, Education Secretary Michael Gove, said that predictions of such large cuts are just “conjecture.” He added those claims were only negotiating tactics from local authorities around the country who are threatening to cut their local funding to charities if the government follows through with some of its plans to reduce public spending.

Still, one advisor to the conservative government argues that any cuts will serve as a motivator for charities to become less reliant on public support and seek increased donations from the private sector and other sources. “What the government is actually trying to make happen is attempt to move the voluntary sector from state dependency to a much more lucrative sector for them, where there is much more money, where they take on much more and can earn and raise much more,” said Philip Blond, who heads a U.K. think tank and has been an outspoken supporter of the Big Society plan.—Bruce Trachtenberg