A few days ago I was asked by the Brighton Argus to write a few words on my New Year’s Resolutions. I gave them three, one boring, one predictable, and one off the wall. If the Argus thinks f it is a resolution rather than an expectation. I expect I will upset, offend and published that they are suitable, they should be published on 2nd January.
One resolution I did not include, because I am not sure if it is a resolution. It is more a prediction: that I will upset and offend some people by what I say and write. I don’t set out to do so, but it is inevitable that if one writes what one thinks, there will always be those who will get upset or be offended.
I recently wrote on this blog about the input I had had into a report on the future of the charity sector published by the Centre for Social Justice. I tweeted “Can we have a proper debate about the role of the charity sector in delivering public services?” and included a link to my post.
Within a very short time, someone called Chris responded: “The CSJ don’t have neutral debates !!! And you join wholeheartedly the debate saying start point pensions are not affordable”.
Now I like punctuation when it is used correctly, and have even blogged about this, but why use three exclamation marks? (Perhaps I should ask: “Why use three exclamation marks ???” Perhaps not).
The pension point I raised regarding pensions was to quote from the report, that rules intended to protect workers’ rights are inadvertently deterring small charities from competing for government contracts, and I mentioned my view that in particular, pension liabilities was such a deterrent. I made no comment about affordability per se.
A year or so ago, I was accused of taking an anti-Conservative stance by links I posted on twitter to articles on the impact of welfare and other government reforms. Around the same time I had welcomed the debate started by Grant Shapps on the future of tenancies for life in social housing.
So I have upset someone on the left. I blog also about the failure of government, for example, the failings of the Work Programme, and I have commented about certain consequences of welfare reform. If I use the now widely used phrase ‘bedroom tax’, people on the right say: “It is not a tax”. But when I say that the social security system needs reforming, or that I really like the drug strategy published by the Coalition Government, I appeal to the right, not so much to some of those on the left.
This next year we must have more open and honest debate, even if this opens us up to accusations of having a party political bias. I have always agreed that charities cannot and should not be party political. But that is a far cry from charities commenting on, warning about, or screaming blue murder in relation to measures that will harm their beneficiaries.
But our time to have some of this debate might be limited. Under the Transparency of Lobbying Bill currently before parliament, some of us might not be able to express some of the opinions in the previous paragraph. If reports are to be believed, local authorities might be prevented from using the phrase ‘bedroom tax’ even though, like the Poll Tax, it is a phrase the public understands.
Under the Bill, charities might be prevented from campaigning on certain issues if they are deemed to be campaigning against government policy. Charities should never campaign for or against government. We should always promote the best interests of our beneficiaries, regardless of what politicians think or say. It is not an easy thing to do, for charities and politicians alike.