Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Bubb Brings Sector into Disrepute

Regular readers will be aware that I've sought to bring the musings of Sir Stephen Bubb to a wider audience over recent weeks and indeed a handy link to his blog can now be found on my blog roll.

Sir Stephen can best be described as the cheer-leader for the voluntary and charitable sector, or more precisely their CEO's as he appears to fulfil the role of General Secretary of their very own union. As such he can be relied upon to argue strongly for better pay and conditions for the members of this exclusive coterie. In fact here he can be seen enthusiastically putting in a pay claim on their behalf only a few days ago. It's also worth noting that as a body, ACEVO is paid £425,000 a year by the government, in order to be able to lobby the government.

Now this is all very relevant to us in Probation because many colleagues could well find themselves working for one of his member charity outfits in the very near future. Sir Stephen and his organisation ACEVO is playing an absolutely crucial role in making sure that lots of his members pick up contracts for our work as part of the Transforming Rehabilitation omnishambles. He's long been keen on privatising the Probation Service and here he is in 2011 giving evidence to the House of Commons Public Administration Committee:-

You only have to look at one example: crime, and the money that we spend in our probation and rehabilitation services. Only 4% of that budget is delivered through third sector organisations, and yet we know the state is hopeless at rehabilitation because more than 70% of people who have been in prison are back in prison within two years. Third sector organisations that deliver those services get records as low as 50%, so why are we not commissioning them more? I think we have to open up our public services to ensure that third sector organisations really can deliver more.

For some reason best known to himself, Sir Stephen has been picking a fight with the Charity Commission for some time, but yesterday their new Chairman William Shawcross decided to fire a broadside back telling the Daily Telegraph that high wages for charity CEO's ran the danger of bringing the sector into disrepute:- 

William Shawcross, the chairman of the Charity Commission, warned that charities were risking their reputations if they were not being seen to get a grip on boardroom excess.

Unite, the union that represents many low-paid charity workers, was quick to respond as reported in the Independent:-  

Rachael Maskell, Unite's national officer for the not-for-profit sector, said: "The excessive City pay culture is seeping into the remuneration packages of charity bosses and should be curbed. This is to be deplored, as it corrupts the ethos of the voluntary sector and is an insult to those, often on average incomes, who donate to charity.

"I think the general public will be shocked by the scale of the packages that some executives are being awarded. This sector is losing its sense of what real value is."

Like all good union General Secretaries, Sir Stephen was equally quick to defend his members and return fire, on Unite:- 

Stephen Bubb, chief executive of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (ACEVO), accused the union of gross hypocrisy over the issue of pay. He said: "We were not surprised to see that the joint general secretaries of Unite earn a combined package of £308,000. They are running a complex organisation with millions of members and a broad range of stakeholders, just like other third-sector leaders.

On his blog though, Bubb decided to broaden his attack and have a go at The Daily Telegraph, Priti Patel MP, and of course William Shawcross and the Charity Commission 'for bringing the sector into disrepute':-

This is a disgraceful distraction by Mr Shawcross. Of all the issues facing charities why does he pick on something that is simply not a problem. Third sector CEO's earn on average £58,000. That is less than Mr Shawcross earns pro rata as chair of the Commission.

However, according to the Independent article, Sir Stephen was neglecting to mention:- 

But the survey also revealed that more than 200 members of ACEVO earned more than £70,000 last year. While the overall pay levels had fallen from last year, the median total salary of chief executives had risen by about £8,000 over the last six years to £57,264.

For those interested, he can be heard on the BBC Radio 4 'Today' programme trying to defend his members high salaries, but with little conviction. 

Now I guess readers are wondering how much Sir Stephen brings home? Well, in July 2011 he told the House Of Commons Public Administration Committee that he earned £100,000. Anyway, the whole issue is nicely out in the open, so lets have a look at some of those outfits likely to be bidding for our work. A blog called The Void covered the ground in March and reported here on findings from the charity trade journal Third Sector:- 

The magazine lists the top 150 earners in UK charities by income and broken down into sectors.  It is a litany of obscene wealth built on the back of the poorest and most vulnerable, revealing for example that whilst next week the Anchor Trust Housing Association will be sending out bedroom tax bills – sure to result in eviction for many people – the highest earner at the trust earns a shocking £275,000 a year.

Elsewhere in the document is a list of the top earners at mainstream charities, most of them household names.  Unsurprisingly it reads like an roll call of workfare exploiters and Work Programme sub-contractors.
Right up at the top of the list is the notorious Shaw Trust, one of the largest charitable Work Programme contractors and responsible for thousands of claimants suffering benefit sanctions.  Whilst those sanctioned on the recommendations of the charity face immediate destitution and even homelessness, the boss takes home £180,000 a year, coming in at joint fifth of the highest paid mainstream charity earners.
Other Work Programme sub-contractors in the top 30 include Scope, RNIB, Leonard Chesire Foundation and Mencap.
Workfare exploiters Salvation Army predictably feature in the list at joint 27th.  The British Heart Foundation, who claim to be moving away from workfare but according to their website are still very much part of the Work Programme, are at number 12 with the highest paid staff member earning £173,000, whilst Barnados are also on the list at number 20.
The list is also a reminder of who has pulled out of workfare.  Age UK, Cancer Research, Marie Curie and Sense all make the top 40 and have all rejected workfare over the last year and a half.
Charities will claim they need to pay high salaries to compete with the business sector.  The upshot of this is business people running charities, who put profit and the needs of the corporate sector they left behind before the people they are funded by the public to help.  Workfare is good for business, helping to undermine wages and workplace organisation.  And it’s good for big charities, who not only get a stream of unpaid workers but if they are particularly compliant may also be offered lucrative government welfare-to-work contracts.
That these are contracts and workfare placements that punish, degrade and impoverish the very people they claim to support can be brushed aside with glossy PR featuring ‘success stories’ – the handful of people who haven’t had miserable experiences at the hands of these organisations.
Millions of lives are currently being crushed under austerity and the erosion of the welfare state.  As Scope Chief Executive Richard Hawkes has said however, these savage cuts provide big opportunities for charities.  The end result of corporate style charities paying bosses hundreds of thousands of pounds are those bosses acting in their own class interests and attacking the very people whose poverty they leech from to fund their own lavish lifestyles.
I think all this should make a few people ponder long and hard as the match-making between Trusts and 'charities' continues in earnest over the next few weeks. Other organisations that might be of interest to us and that feature on the list are Turning Point paying their CEO £165,000 and Catch 22, £130,000. 


  1. This is an aspect of the outsourcing of Probation that I have not previously given much thought about.

    Thanks for highlighting. Have there been any TV exposures so far? It does seem to offer material for a Channel4 Dispatches or perhaps BBC Panorama type programme or two.

    I am interested that my MP - Priti Patel - the scourge of the public services gets a mention.

    I am still thinking about how best to lobby her just before the Commons Debate on the House of Lords amendments to the Offender Rehabilitation Bill. I would be very interested to establish contact with others in her Witham, Essex constituency who are interested in approaching her collectively.

    Meanwhile thanks to Jim for highlighting this stuff about charitable organisations, largely funded by government then lobbying for what the government wants.

    I just hope that before they take on ANY probation work as a statutory contractor and therefore have primary responsibility for providing supervision they will get lots of information from probation folk who have been at it for decades.

    There is much reputational damage to come for charities who get involved, once re-offending 'on their watch' (as the cliche has it) occurs.

    1. Charities and conflict of interest provides some very interesting information. Maybe some charities should google it themselves.

  2. "G4S abandons electronic tagging contracts bid"

    Sadly I doubt that this signifies, that there won't be any privateers willing to bid for the Probation Contracts?