There needs to be a framework for giving public money to charities that campaign against the government, according to Danny Kruger MP.
The Conservative MP for Devizes made the remarks during the think tank NPC’s annual conference yesterday.
He told the online event that it was “OK to have a bit of a culture war because we need to have these issues out in our democracy”.
He said: “But the role of charities in campaigning I think is never going to be one to easily resolve, other than fundamentally charities exist independent of party politics; that is the sector's value.
“While you should never say, as I think someone famously did: ‘stick to your knitting’, obviously charities should be involved in policy debates and have a massive contribution to make.”
Kruger, who was recently appointed as a parliamentary private secretary at the newly named Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, was last year commissioned by Prime Minister Boris Johnson to conduct a review of how the government could make the most of the voluntary sector in the UK’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.
Kruger said he thought it was understandable that the government did not want to give money to charities if they were going to use it to campaign against it.
“There does need to be some management of it, there does need to be such a framework around campaigning with public money against the government. I think that's an understandable concern that governments of all colours have always had,” he said.
Kruger said he felt some criticism by some in the sector of how the government was allocating funding regarding “levelling up” and it being too “top-down” was legitimate.
“Charities will resent the fact that they have to jump through hoops set by some remote bureaucrat or politician, and that's just a natural dynamic. But this government really does understand the need to decentralise,” he said.
“I think the government understands that we need a diversity of provision in the public sector and civil society understands the value of community-led action.
“But there's also a commitment to fairness across the board, so accountability for public money that won’t allow for either excessive waste or cronyism to creep in.”
Kruger said that, personally, he supported greater flexibility and risk-taking because it was not like the current system did waste money, saying: “That’s what bureaucracies do.”
Kruger said his colleague Michael Gove, the new communities secretary, who is responsible for the government’s levelling up agenda, understood the “social narrative” of the agenda and the importance of “community-based providers”.
Kruger said: “The question is whether they will force through the changes that are needed, but they do their job within the paradigm that they've been set, so how do we change the paradigms that mean government is essentially outward-focused and collaborative in its spirit?”
He added: “That's the job for all of us in the sector, as well as MPs, to make that case and to show what can be done and to put the pressure on the ultimate decision-makers to do it right.”