Mark Whitehead 12 February 2018

Charitable giving, the Westminster way

Charitable giving, the Westminster way

Local government is coming up with all sorts of innovative ways to raise money nowadays - but none more surprising than the latest wheeze from Westminster Council.

There, a plan is afoot to ask the wealthy central London borough's more well-heeled residents of to pay twice their normal council tax - out of sheer generosity.

Even more surprisingly, many of those surveyed said they would be happy to do so.

If all 400 of the willing volunteers in the top council tax band paid up, it would bring in a tidy £333,000 - to be spent on youth clubs, support for the homeless and tackling loneliness.

All good causes. But the question is whether the good intentions will turn into action when it comes to the crunch.

Even the richest families have to count their pennies, and the idea of handing out cash to the council which could be used for other things - an extra foreign holiday, perhaps, or a donation to a favoured charity - might not seem such a good idea.

And then there is the question of principle - whether it really is good practice ask for voluntary contributions to pay for community services.

It may be that some very high-income individuals will make large contributions - as in the times when philanthropists paid for housing and libraries and art galleries.

But that was then, in an age when a few men became fantastically rich while very large numbers of people remained extremely poor, without access to basic services such as schooling, health care and decent housing.

Nowadays, people have got used to the idea of services being paid for from general taxation, not through the benevolence of the super-rich.

It will be interesting to see how Westminster's appeal to the generosity of its top-bracket residents yields results - or whether their pockets turn out to be deeper then they thought.

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