Libertarian meat eater, right wing in the sense of conservative with a small c.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

What is a Charity?....

....or how Labour may have shot themselves in the arse with the Charities Act 2006.

The recent wailing and gnashing of teeth from private schools do have some basic justifications.

The Public Benefit Test from the Act:

There are two key principles both of which must be met in order to show that a charity’s aims are for the public benefit.

Principle 1: There must be an identifiable benefit or benefits.

  1. It must be clear what the benefits are
  2. The benefits must be related to the aims
  3. Benefits must be balanced against any detriment or harm

Principle 2: The benefit must be to the public, or a section of the public.

  1. The beneficiaries must be appropriate to the aims
  2. Where the benefit is to a section of the public, the opportunity to benefit must not be unreasonably restricted by geographical or other restrictions, or by ability to pay any fees charged
  3. People in poverty must not be excluded from the opportunity to benefit
  4. Any private benefits must be incidental
2c and the last clause of 2b are clearly aimed straight at the knackers of private schools, you can almost smell the elite of the socialist movement creaming themselves as they add both clauses for certain overkill. That the inquisitorial commission is headed by a Labour party member of dubious qualification for the role is another ground for complaint as is the fact that the decisions reached have been made on a very narrow basis and no clear guidance on what is required has been forthcoming.

However, the first objection is the biggie because most people do not hold such a narrow definition of a "public benefit" and until trying to argue this out I would have agreed with them. However, I can find no compelling reason that a school should be a charity rather than a business if it requires fees and if no fee is required then it should meet the new tests anyway*.

The problem is that people have long looked on the charitable status of Private Schools as a quid pro quo for having to pay for useless shit that they don't want and aren't going to use.** It is not unreasonable to expect something back if you are forced to pay into a pot and have not taken anything out. Charitable status was that little something, (£280 per year per child in a case looked at by Mark Wadsworth).

The upshot from this is that private schools will divide between those with whacking great endowments that can satisfy the charity commission's box tickers and those that will have to become business'. This will hopefully lead to some positive changes; giving money to a charity so that little Johnny gets taught is one thing, there is a different mindset involved if you view education as just another commodity. Market entry will become easier once parents are used to the idea that there is nothing wrong with a school being a business, leading to greater competition. Parents are going to be more demanding and if they keep running up against the regulatory problems then they will pressurise politicians to change them***.

Not even the rabid rump of the left believes that public education is better than private, in fact it is this higher standard that they detest because it's unfair. With any luck, this attempt to kill off private schooling should make it better, cheaper, provide a wider range of options and help exterminate the comprehensive system with extreme prejudice****.

* Until our Lords and Masters decide that discriminating on ability is "unreasonable" at any rate.
** Or the Comprehensive System as it's otherwise known.
*** Or just fuck off, the greatest service most politicians are capable of.
**** No that doesn't mean "With a big fuck off axe" but I can see where you're coming from.

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