Interview: Titus Alexander on the fallout from the campaigning fund affair

He was among those appointed by Capacitybuilders to select recipients of the now-scrapped Campaigning Research Programme fund. But, as he tells John Plummer, he questions the wisdom of government supporting charities to campaign

Titus Alexander
Titus Alexander

Titus Alexander is philosophical about the Government's unilateral decision to scrap the grants for campaigning that he and his fellow panel members had decided should be awarded to 32 small charities.

His view is that the Government should not be in the business of direct funding of such campaigning in the first place - there are too many political sensitivities, he says, and the job would be better done at local level.

But he is in no doubt that last month's decision by third sector minister Angela Smith "completely blew away" the credibility of the Compact, which stipulates consultation. "It is a complete waste of time," says Alexander. "It has no teeth and it's not honoured."

Smith's decision to transfer the £750,000 Campaigning Research Programme to the £16.7m sector Hardship Fund was made without reference to Alexander and three others appointed by infrastructure body Capacitybuilders to select recipients: Angela Sarkis, Rachael Stokes and Jessica Ellis.

Some of the groups affected have said they think the decision might have been motivated by the unpopularity of some of their causes, which include transgendered people, Gypsies, refugees and ex-offenders.

Alexander, who is head of learning and campaigns at social disadvantage charity Novas Scarman Group and chair of Democracy Matters, which promotes participation in democracy, is sanguine about this. "Whether the OTS was concerned about the political sensitivities or genuinely felt the money should go to the Hardship Fund, I have no idea," he says.

"If political considerations were a factor, I would understand it - in the run-up to an election any party will want to minimise the chance of giving the Daily Mail any fuel."

But he believes the episode raised wider questions about the difficulties of central government funding of charities to campaign, often against the Government. He says campaigning and advocacy should be supported, but funding should be devolved to adult and community education schemes that are not subject to such intense political scrutiny. "This decision highlights the difficulties," he says.

"There is cross-party support for community groups learning how to campaign effectively. For a healthy democracy, we need accessible, affordable and independent support for people locally to learn how to influence decisions and develop the confidence, skills and knowledge that enable them to campaign effectively."

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