July 5, 2010; Source: The Guardian | The United Kingdom’s new minister for civil society thinks the public should, through donations, shoulder a bigger part of the cost of delivering services. As part of a push for the coalition government’s vision for a “big society,” people are being urged to give 1 percent of their income to charity.

While on the one hand certainly an altruistic wish, the urging for people to be more generous also reflects the government’s desire to cut its support for charities and have private givers pick up a bigger share. In England, many charities derive much of their income from public support, and in the employment and training sector alone, according to the Guardian, “the average level of dependency among charities is 70 percent.” The newspaper notes that, “54 percent of UK adults make a donation to charity at least once a month, although women (58 percent) are more likely to do so than men (49 percent). The median average monthly donation in 2008-09 was £10 ($15), which represents about 0.5 percent of pre-tax average earnings.”

On the other hand, government support for the country’s charitable sector has continually outpaced private giving, nearly doubling between 2000 and 2007 to some £13bn ($19.75 billion) from ($12.15 billion). Speaking at a fundraising conference in London on Monday, Hurd said he believed that if charities are able to survive the short-term effects of spending cuts, they would fare well longer term as the government’s big-society vision began to become reality. In his talk, Hurd described the big vision as the transfer of power from government to the people, the reduction of people’s reliance on the state and the encouragement of social responsibility, and as the Guardian reported, “greater personal giving of money and time.”—Bruce Trachtenberg