Ceri runs an arts charity in London. For years, she’s applied for government grants to fund her work, but not any more. 'You can’t do anything interesting or original', she says. 'Everything has so many strings and requirements attached about involving the community or helping people stop smoking or whatever, that there’s no room to do anything else.'
This is not true only of artists, however; it is true of any organisation including, for instance, charities.
As we have seen, Friends of the Earth gain a substantial amount of funding from the state; and they are not the only ones. John Trenchard has highlighted three charities—Mental Health Matters, Barnardo's and Oxfam—which receive a large chunk of their money from the state: indeed, in the first two, their entire salary bill is covered by taxpayer cash. Like any other organisation, fundamentally those holding the purse strings will control the agenda: in a sense, these charities (and many others) have simply become unofficial (and unaccountable) state agencies—QUANGOs, if you like.
Of course, the Conservatives currently want to see even more of this. Ultimately, when David Cameron talks about using the Third Sector to perform certain tasks more efficiently than central government agencies, he is talking about using state funding to compel the charities do so.* This is a dangerous notion.
However, the idea that any of this could be anything other than utterly beneficial is almost anathema to the vast majority of the British population: after all, they themselves have been in hock to the state for decades.
* UPDATE: my logic goes like this. David Cameron has said that he wants to look to the Third Sector to fulfill, more efficiently, some of the services that are currently handled by state organisations—indeed, Oliver Letwin said much the same to the Bow Group.
Now, are Dave and Ollie suggesting that the actual services are reduced? Or that the levels or service will be cut? No. Thus, if charities are to fill in for (hopefully) hundreds of sacked civil servants, they are going to need more funding.
Is this going to come from philanthropic donations from the public? No. Or at least, if the government is going to guarantee the same level of services, it cannot rely on the public's generosity.
So, the state services are cut, and the money transferred to the "more efficient, more responsive" smaller charities. But this state funding effectively chains the charities to dealing with the government's priorities and to the government's methods.
In effect, the charities become just another government department, but not even particularly accountable to voters.
Now, I would love to find out that my logic is flawed, but in the absence of any firm plans by Dave and Ollie, I have to assume that the above is broadly true.