The government’s spending cuts could cost voluntary organisations billions of pounds, the charities’ regulator in England and Wales has warned.
Charity Commission chairwoman Dame Suzi Leather said cutting funding to charities that were providing key public services would be short sighted.
What is wrong with those two sentences? Now unless the Dictionary Fairies have been at my Websters or OED (again – the blighters!) this is a misuse of the English language.
It happens all the time in discourse relating to government. Defence cuts “cost” jobs and all that. If this country is ever going to get on an even keel we have got to start with the language. There has been much talk recently about whether or not the private sector can “take up the slack” of job cuts. Implicit in this is the idea that the private sector is the icing and not the cake, the cart and not the horse. Note that “key public services” phrase. I will bet you dollars to donuts that you own a pair of shoes. Indeed I’ll double that. I bet you own several pairs of shoes (not quite Imelda Marcos but you at least have a computer and the intersection of the set of computer owners and the set of the shoeless is a very small one) and regard shoes as vital. I recall an advert with Gloria Hunniford in which she repeated the sage advice of her mother to always have a good pair of shoes and a good bed because you’re always going to be in one or the other. Few would argue with that. Now unless you are a child (and if you are you shouldn’t be reading this anyway because I use cuss words a lot) your shoes are not only not provided by the government (there is no National Shoe Service) but are in fact taxed by the government via VAT at 17.5%.
You also have electricity from the grid (or you’re peddling like Lance Armstrong on a mountain stage) and food, probably a car, a bank account (iffy there Nick – since the bailouts…) and lots of other things that are generally considered required for modern human existence but not provided by the government. I mean even One Million Years BC Raquel Welsh had a fur bikini. These things are not fripperies. Yes, even the car. I know most people on the planet don’t have one but most people who do have some wheels don’t regard it as just useful for playing Jeremy Clarkson (Assume the voice – “It’s got 800 torques and it sets your underpants on fire”) but as a means to go to work or to the shops to buy food and floor cleaner and things. None of those of course are strictly speaking luxuries. So I buy a bag of pasta at TESCO. That’s living high on the hog ain’t it? No. It’s called not starving. Unless you’re Wayne Rooney, obviously, who needs a quarter of a million a week to keep him in the manner no one eating a pie down the Stretford End can even begin to imagine – I certainly can’t. What could he spend it on? Let’s not go there*. Anyway, the point is an awful lot of vital services to the public (note my alternative phrasing) are not provided by government. Food: no. Water: no. Power: no. Motors: no. Petrol: no. Clothes: no. Defence: sort of – badly**.
Everyone in the private sector*** serves the public one way or another. If they didn’t whatever enterprise they worked for would be short-lived. Indeed the services provided by government (or financed by government – quangos, fake charities etc) are extraordinarily limited in terms of what people actually need. Take the NHS for example. My last dental visit cost quite a lot. Check-up (sound, sound, sound, sound… missing – hardly news to me – I had that out when I was 8), scale and polish (From a hygienist with the mindset of a NAZI gym mistress) and a filling to a wisdom tooth**** and I’m on NHS rates***** yet we still regard the NHS as free at the point of delivery. But it isn’t is it? Not for teeth anyway because if it was I wouldn’t have had to stick my card in the machine – and they don’t provide anaesthesia for the VISAectomy. Anyway my dentist ain’t that flash. He only has a BMW convertible but one must wonder who the NHS subsidy for dental care really subsidises…
Fundamentally I don’t get it. What is a vital service? How has the public(ish) sector managed to lay claim to all of them in the imagination of much of the public when most of the absolute requirements of life are met by private business? Moreover how come about half the country’s GDP is spent by the government on these things. It looks like jolly bad value for money to me. Even moreover the private sector (money grubbing bastards the lot of them – even if they earn less than our tireless public servants and don’t have titanium pensions) are expected to turn a profit which is nice for them and more importantly means their enterprise is essentially self-sustaining. To return to my original point a charity that cannot make ends meet by obtaining donations willingly given from the public is not a charity. It is not sustainable and it probably isn’t because not enough people care about the decline of the Estonian fruitbat. Should they care? Maybe, maybe not. It depends but it is down to the charity to make it’s case off it’s own bat. Indeed the independence of charities is, or rather should be, their strength.
And here endeth the lesson.
Sorry, I did go on some.
*I was a reasonable right-back in my day and will play for a half-time orange and couple of pints with the lads afterwards. Leeds University 5 a side Maths postgrad 4th team. That’s me. I’m not saying I’m any good but if Sir Alex gets me a Jaffa and stands his round after the 90 is up then I’m a lot cheaper. Yes, 4th team. We were bloody awful. The first team were brilliant but they had four Romanians and three were called Radu. They had like left feet and everything. I asked one of the Radus if it was a common name in Romania. He said, “not really”. I doubt I can take this story any further.
**I’m sure you have heard after the farrago of the defence cuts which raised a rather Zen philosophical point – is it really an aircraft carrier if it isn’t carrying aircraft we have the grounding of (the beautifully named in the circs) HMS Astute. According to the BBC this possibly happened because they were using out of date charts. My wife has a 2005 AA road atlas in her 1.0L Vauxhall Corsa. Who are we to complain? Oh yeah, the ones not driving a billion quids worth of nuclear submarine into the Isle of Skye. They should have gone to Halfords and bought a TomTom. Or SpecSavers or something. An aside. Did you know that the UK smoking ban applies to submarines (they are a “workplace”) including the Vanguard-class SSBNs. This is because second-hand smoke is injurious to health. In the context of something with 16 MIRVed Trident missiles that is a sick joke. Moreover do we really want an XO on-board who is choking for a gasper and has the launch keys – “Get me 20 Marlboro or goodbye Moscow”.
***I mean the real private sector not the “third way” private sector. If anyone knows of anything useful Crapita have ever done please let me know.
**** At the age of 37 (Is this turning into the ballad of Lucy Jordan? -Ed) I’m still getting them through which says something.
***** The local dentist only took me on initially as a private patient. This meant things cost slightly more. After a year or so without any major work – any work, thank God – needing I was converted to NHS. Now this meant that the government paid half (roughly) but it didn’t halve my bills. They were just slightly less. Three good science A-Levels, a tatty white coat and a Gerber multitool… I could do that!