Successive governments have become reliant on external providers for services that were once the province of state provision. That has brought many benefits: innovation, better focus on users, more diversity of provision and more flexibility – as well as efficiencies and economies. But it also brings risks – in particular, that government becomes dependent on the quality of financial management of others, and dependent on them providing information on the services they provide and results they deliver. Making objective decisions on whether to continue funding or not can become hard when the recipient organisation is well connected and can mobilise vocal political support. Charities are powerful advocates for their clients – but also often for themselves, particularly if a government decision poses a threat to their continued operation. When I was at Defra we had an example of a charity which had lost its way, become dependent on Defra funding, and failed to adapt to a changed funding environment. But none of that was taken into account by the high profile supporters they mobilised to defend their continued funding. After a brief attempt to develop a revised business plan, we finally agreed with the trustees that the organisation could not […]

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