Gareth Thomas MP (Labour and Co-Operative, Harrow West) is a shadow Cabinet Office minister
David Cameron’s latest attack on philanthropists has put another nail in the coffin of the Big Society. Not content with undermining the voluntary sector, he has now taken to insulting people who give generous donations to charity. It shows staggering arrogance.
Cameron’s Big Society rhetoric has never matched the reality. His regular relaunches of what he called his mission in politics haven’t fooled those working in charities who have seen funding and support cut from under them.
But Cameron has now delivered another blow to charities and philanthropists. This week Number 10 insulted them, saying philanthropists are donating to charities which “don’t in all cases do a great amount of charitable work” in order to “wipe out” their tax bills.
This is a desperate attempt to justify the changes in this year’s budget which will limit the amount of tax relief which people can claim, including on donations to charity. Those who are abusing reliefs to cut their taxes should be stopped. But Osborne did not announce a cap on reliefs out of principle.
He did so in a last minute panic try and deflect criticism of his decision to cut the 50p tax rate, which will give a tax cut of more than £40,000 each year for 14,000 millionaires.
• Memo to Cameron: The rich give less to charity 4 Nov 2011
• How Cameron’s coalition is choking the Big Society 2 Nov 2011
In their rush the Tories didn’t think through the impact on charities. In seeking to excuse a tax cut for all very high earners, Osborne chose to hit those who give to charity. Charities are already reporting an impact on donations. As Sir Nicholas Hytner, artistic director of the National Theatre, has said, the plans make “no sense”.
And in a clumsy attempt to cover up their mistake, the Tories are now accusing philanthropists and charities of tax avoidance.
David Cameron’s cuts were already squeezing the life out of the Big Society; his insults this week have put another nail in its coffin.