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Editor’s Comment: April 2018

PUBLISHED: 14:27 21 March 2018 | UPDATED: 14:27 21 March 2018

Oxfam aid for Somalia is loaded up (c) Alun McDonald/Oxfam

Oxfam aid for Somalia is loaded up (c) Alun McDonald/Oxfam

Alun McDonald/Oxfam

Our editor Mike Lowe explains why we shouldn’t “allow our displeasure at the antics of the big charities to deter us from supporting the local charities which do so much good work.”

I have written before about the manner in which some of our big charities have lost their way: the RSPCA turning itself into some kind of unofficial police force; the National Trust trying to force volunteers to wear ‘Glad to be Gay’ badges; but nothing on the scale of recent revelations of widespread, commonplace sexual abuse, both at home and abroad.

Of course in the current climate, with Augean stables being mucked out all over the place, it’s not just the charitable sector which has come under the spotlight. But when the God Syndrome comes into play – “We’re here to save you” – and First World largesse lands on Third World shores, you can see how food might be exchanged for favours.

The root cause of much of this excess is that our major charities have simply grown too big, too rich, too corporate and too political. Oxfam, for instance, has expanded from being a worthy organisation dedicated to bringing clean water and sustainable food to poor areas into a global entity with flashy offices and six-figure salaries. Last year the charity received donations of £408 million, then immediately spent £26 million of that windfall on fund-raising to bring even more money. It rather puts your pound coins in one of those little envelopes into perspective. In fact, many big charities have so much money that they struggle to spend it before year-end, at which point the next barrowload of dosh is due.

And take this response from one potential donor: “It says here in this letter you sent me that £4 from me could help save a life. So how about your CEO takes £40,000 less salary next year and saves 10,000 lives?” It’s a valid point that shows growing public disenchantment.

But what is vitally important is that we don’t allow our displeasure at the antics of the big boys to deter us from supporting the local charities which do so much good work. The volunteers behind the counter at your local charity shop have nothing to do with misbehaviour and mismanagement at the top and would indeed be dismayed to learn about it. That’s why idiot reporters from a local newspaper were met with bewilderment when they went into their neighbourhood Oxfam shop in Bolton in search of quotes about sexual shenanigans in Haiti.

I can’t list all the local charities here that we should go out of our way to support. I’m bound to miss one out and then be in line for a severe telling off from supporters. But as I’m trying to tidy up my home office at the moment I can tell you that there are lots of excellent books now on sale at the Cotswold Dogs & Cats Home shop in Tetbury, the Longfield shop in Nailsworth and the Sue Ryder shop in Stroud. Enough said.

Of course you may question why, in 2018, we need charities and the immense efforts of volunteers to provide the care and services that should come from central government, but that’s a different argument...

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The Beast from the East certainly bit hard in parts of the Cotswolds, with villages snowed in and travel almost impossible. Perhaps the most disturbing factor about this “weather event” (as the TV forecasters annoyingly refer to “weather) was the speed with which our food supply chain was interrupted. Even when it was possible to venture out onto the roads, supermarket shelves were frighteningly bare, with no bread, milk, fresh meat or fresh vegetables.

It does make you wonder just how vulnerable we are and how quickly we miss the instant gratification of being able to buy what we want at virtually any time of the day or week.

Order was only restored in many places by the efforts of local farmers who, as well as having to battle dreadful conditions to feed and care for their livestock, also found time to clear the snowbound lanes. I’m sure Cotswold Life readers would like me to pass on our heartfelt thanks.

For more from Mike, follow him on Twitter! @cotslifeeditor

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