A charity run by the government’s official “big society ambassador” Shaun Bailey more than more than tripled its spending on publicity in the accounting period for which he was fighting a marginal seat. Having enraged other charities with what have been described as “disgusting slurs”, perhaps David Cameron’s “urban talisman” can explain why his operation spends 35 pence in every pound on publicity but less than 20 pence on activities and events for children.
The latest accounts from My Generation, the charity started by Bailey just months before he was selected to fight Hammersmith for the Tories, show that the organisation spent £92,749 on “fundraising and publicity costs”. With their brand intrinsically linked with Bailey’s public persona, the organisation increased publicity in 2009/10 such that the ratio with total spending doubled — and the cash figure tripled — in comparison with the year before.
It’s not been a good year for Shaun. The fêted Tory candidate had his campaign kickstarted by a personal visit from David Cameron in January 2010 but since then he lost the election and his “charity” work has been dogged with allegations of poor practice. Last April The Times reported that there was nearly £16,000 in unaccounted expenditure in the My Generation accounts. Scrapbook then exposed shameful levels of income wasted on management, administration and publicity in which Bailey featured heavily.
Concerns around Bailey’s activities were raised at the same time as fellow Tory candidate Joanne Cash was ordered by the Charity Commission to cease using the word “charitable” to describe a project funded and run by her Conservative association. Likewise, there can be absolutely no doubt that Bailey has benefited politically from My Generation.
Despite claims that he “had not expressed any political ambitions” when the organisation was founded, he was previously a fellow at the Centre for Policy Studies, a Tory-affiliated think tank highly influential in the creation of Thatcherism. The CPS is well-known as a breeding ground for the next generation of Tory politicians. The My Generation business plan stipulated “three year’s funding” for Bailey’s role, which would take him up to the latest possible election date of May 2010. Oddly, this time limit did not apply to the other staff.
Bailey is happy to dish out criticism to others in the sector, pouring scorn on charities when they complained they can’t deliver the big society if their funding is slashed:
“That’s a few people with their vested interest who thought they were going to make a lot of money,”
Perhaps Bailey, in turn, will take heed of advice on best practice endorsed by the Institute of Fundraising:
“Development activity generates a very good rate of return and it is not unusual for charities to achieve £4 – £5 back for every £1 invested.”
Assuming a conventional relationship with donors, My Generation generated £3.14 worth of income for every pound spent on publicity – significantly below both what CharityFacts say are usual rates of return and what the charity was achieving previously.
Just what was the A-list candidate trying to promote so heavily with such little success in 2009/10?