It is only natural, when deciding which voluntary groups’ budgets to cut, to go for the ones that have the least popular support.
They may offer better value for money than other groups, they may even be more effective than other groups but if the groups don’t generate public sympathy then there will be less aggravation when their budgets are cut.
You would be asking for trouble if you cut the grant to the local children’s hospice, but removing funding form an organisation that offers group therapy and counselling to paedophiles - well, you’re on safer ground there.
In fact removing any funding to services to babies and young children is likely to get a strong emotional reaction, just as continuing to fund support for young offenders or any ex-offenders is likely to be unpopular.
Is there, then, a hierarchy of the deserving and undeserving ever present in papers such as the Daily Mail and Express but usually ignored by local authorities when making grants to voluntary organisations?
Does this hierarchy come into play, however, in austere times when local authority budgets won’t stretch to fund what was funded in the past? When big cuts have to be made in grants to voluntary organisations, on what are these decisions based?
Initially every one takes a hit - say, a cut in grants across the board of 5 per cent - but this doesn’t generate enough savings even though some of the smaller voluntary groups will struggle to continue as this was their only source of funding and was a very small grant. So the next step is to remove funding from all the groups who were receiving £5,000 or less a year in grants.
The rationale for this is that there are a surprisingly large number of these who for historical reasons have continued to receive funding and the loss of such small groups is unlikely to have a big impact. In the good times it seemed mean to take away what after all was only a few hundred pounds that bought the council some good will.
But this doesn’t generate the level of savings required. A more radical approach is needed. Start with what’s left in the pot for grants after the savings have been made in efficiencies, redundancies and front line services. Now it’s not “whose grant shall we cut” but “who will get a grant”. This gets us back to the hierarchy of deserving and undeserving groups.
The Daily Mail provide a handy guide for the least deserving, including but not really limited to immigrants, benefit scroungers, gypsies and travellers, yobs and anything that they would bracket as ‘threats’ to the society.
This would certainly include grants to gay rights organisations, groups promoting women’s rights on the grounds they are no longer needed and grants to Muslim groups on the grounds that we are a Christian country and such groups should only be supported if they are promoting British values
I am not suggesting that local government officers and councillors discriminate against these groups as well. In fact they are the ones who in the past have championed these groups.
But they can now no longer just take a little off every one’s grant: they must decide which groups will no longer get a grant and in so doing they will be onyl too aware of which groups have popular support, and which don’t.