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Charities Should Answer to The Public, Not to The Political Elite

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Charities should answer to the public not to the political elite

Does it matter that the chief executive of Save the Children earns more (£163,000 last year) than the Prime Minister (£143,500)? Should we worry that, as this newspaper revealed this week, at least 38 charity bosses are now earning more than £100,000 a year?

The answer is not obvious. Large charities need professional competence and charismatic leadership. Such things must, within reason, be paid for. On the other hand, charities are funded by people giving money to help other people who need it more. If a class of charito-crats, richer and more powerful than their ordinary donors, has come into being, that is wrong.

Anyone in doubt about this issue should study the reaction of Sir Stephen Bubb. Sir Stephen is the chief executive of the Association of the Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (ACEVO), the chief of chiefs. He is angry with William Shawcross, the chairman of the Charity Commission whose strong new board is trying to get to grips with abuses, for warning against excessive charity pay levels. He is absolutely furious with what he calls “MPs on the Right who hate effective charities”, like the Conservative Priti Patel, who have drawn attention to the burgeoning salaries. Such people “particularly dislike international charities who have been so effective in raising the concerns of the world’s poor,” says Sir Stephen. “So let’s be robust in defending pay.” Because we care so much about the poor, you must make us rich!

“Gone are the days,” Sir Stephen goes on, “when charities were run by retired colonels and daughters of the aristocracy.” Now they are run by people like him, trade union leaders who fight for the right of charity workers to enter the top income tax bracket.

Who exactly is Sir Stephen Bubb? A former Labour councillor, who is also general secretary of Euclid, the European Third Sector Leaders Network, he has a second home in the Cotswolds. He has been on the Honours Committee since 2005, and duly received his own knighthood in 2011. He has worked for the NUT, the Transport and General Workers Union and the Association of Metropolitan Authorities. His recreations (see Who’s Who) are “genealogy, travel, fine art and fine wine, the Anglican church, making a difference”.


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