Opinion: A base in London is capital punishment

Given the recent terrorist events, whose victims included charity staff both killed and injured, just how many more reasons does the voluntary sector need to abandon London?

This is no retreat signalling a bombers' victory - that logic would have us holidaying in Baghdad to prove we cannot be intimidated - but a chance to reappraise why, except for tradition, status and the wilful rejection of economic evidence, so many charities favour the capital. Iraq and other crises might get worse - while our treatment of the developing world and UK minorities improves only slowly, we can expect further attacks, security alerts and frequent disruption.

But there are more reasons to quit 'the smoke' than bombs, terror threats and the prospect of minority staff being hassled for ID cards - for example, savings, collaboration and the chance to reinvent your charity for a new era. Others disagree, so let's knock down an Aunt Sally or two.

Your head of communications must drink in Fleet Street or all stories about you will disappear.

Rubbish. The street is gone, journalists drink less and people invented the telephone, the fax and finally email so you could live and work anywhere you choose.

Everyone has to be in London to lobby Parliament. Piffle. Parliament has no power (try Brussels) and, even if it did, issues that affect your beneficiaries can be pitched to MPs by your branches establishing real needs and concerns in their constituencies.

There's more. All foundations, philanthropists and public bodies offering marginless contracts are in London. Good charity staff live only in the Home Counties. Beneficiaries cannot go beyond the M25. Lifelong massive mortgages for little boxes are natural. All tosh. Commuting inspires, pollution is great, I like traffic. No, no, no.

Of course, many charities never fell under London's spurious spell in the first place. Others, from CAF to the Charity Commission, have already sent out escape parties. Why not make an effort to foster peripheral visionaries with charity campuses and start-up incubator units?

As the National Trust found even in Swindon, relocation can save on offices, services and staff, while smart movers will collaborate and cluster, sharing facilities and back-up to cut costs. And a move encourages innovation.

It's scary, but freedom and fresh air work - as terrorists will never understand.

- Nick Cater is a consultant and writer: catercharity@yahoo.co.uk

- 'All foundations, philanthropists and public bodies offering marginless contracts are in London. Tosh'.

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