Little at large

The emperor's old clothes and no sector tsar at M&S

Mathew Little
Mathew Little

- "You get the civil service and the Minister for the Third Sector behind your campaign and it takes it to another level," raved Mary 'Queen of Charity Shops' Portas after taking her Donate, Don't Dump campaign to the Cabinet Office.

The department's staff donated more than 900 items of clothing to Age Concern and Help the Aged. The head of the civil service, Gus O'Donnell, parted with a suit for the occasion, and third sector minister Angela Smith gave away a coat.

Conspicuously, Portas's paean of praise did not extend to naming Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who also joined in the festival of giving by donating a solitary tie. Perhaps it's all part of a cunning plan to acclimatise us all to the coming age of austerity.

- We all know how definitions of volunteering have an elastic quality: they're able to expand to include most of the activities people engage in during leisure hours.

But enthusiastic callers to an enquiry line set up for applications to the Government's new National Access to Volunteering pilot fund suspected it had all gone too far when the number they dialled turned out to be for Marks & Spencer. No, M&S chairman Sir Stuart Rose has not been appointed volunteering tsars - it was just a typo.

- Are the UK's charity regulators getting cold feet on private schools? Dame Suzi Leather told a conference of independent school heads that failing charities had five years, instead of one, to meet public benefit test requirements.

Meanwhile, the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator is still sitting on an independent report on the affordability of fees charged by charities. An interim report was published last October and the final report, which assesses the Scottish public's ability to pay different fees, was delivered to the regulator in March.

The OSCR says it has no immediate plans to publish it. At present, spending 5 per cent of their turnover on bursaries is enough to satisfy the OSCR that schools are not "unduly restrictive" for the public. Does the report say this threshold is too low?

- Mathew Little is a freelance writer, mathew.little@haymarket.com

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