The season of Giving has seen the Government release a Green or consultation paper on the same subject.
A more giving culture will involve “individuals and communities” giving more “money, assets, time, skills, knowledge, and energy” to “charities, community groups, and social enterprises”. With suggested solutions themed around ‘great opportunities (for giving), information, visibility, exchange (mutual benefit), and support (for successful social enterprises)’.
The most headline grabbing proposition, borrowed from Colombia, has been the idea that the Government will work with banks to encourage donation options at the point of cash withdrawal. Many of the other suggestions in the paper are also ‘nudges‘
The last Government gave the Police powers to march anti-social thugs to ATMs to pay behaviour fines, this one hopes to encourage everyone else to do the same voluntarily.
It’s hard to be entirely down on a project with the intent of helping people to help others. However, beyond blandishments to us ‘all being in this together‘ it hard to see what such tinkering has to do with Government. From Comic Relief to local leaflets our lives are filled with invitations and opportunities to do good with our time and money.
Very little, for example, needs to change for Banks to enable ATM-giving, other than Banks deciding it is a good idea their customers would welcome. They should be free to decide otherwise if they wish. Many other ideas in the paper are examples of things that have already happened without Government support.
And the paper is very light the most obvious thing the Government can do to encourage charitable giving, which is focusing ruthlessly on growth and keeping taxes down while tackling the deficit.
Lower taxes mean more growth, more growth means higher incomes, and higher incomes give us more control over our time and what we do with it. The CAF report charts comparing international giving are illustrative. Higher growth, and lower taxes, entirely intuitively, tend to mean more generous citizens.
Other issues of getting the Government out of the way, for example by reviewing the way bureaucratic CRB checks are deployed, are discussed and hopefully will mean less red tape in future. But we should be cautious on this, there are always political reasons not to remove red tape.
The central problem though remains that the Big Society cannot be magicked into happening through a 5-year tractor plan. This paper isn’t quite that, but then it isn’t quite the removal of Government from areas of life where it has no concern either. Less work required in future Mr. Maude…