Charity Chiefs—Paragons or Parasites?

Ten years of austerity have put the squeeze on public spending, especially among councils. With any increments being soaked up by the NHS and ballooning demands on Social Work, much of the social burden had fallen on the so-called ‘Third Sector”, the bulk of which are registered charities. These organisations cover a huge range of types, from church organisations, through food banks and specific advocacy like Shelter or Matie Curie to full-blown businesses like council ALEOs. Almost all depend on unpaid volunteers to survive and do go work, constituting a major asset in our social fabric.

But as the demand on their services has grown, the standard of professional management required to run them has also grown. This has meant compering in the commercial marketplace for paid staff. And, similar to ballooning compensation to senior management in both the commercial and public sectors, the Third Sector has followed suit. This generally does not apply to the bulk of Scotland’s 45,000 voluntary organisations, including 27,300 charities, over 90% of which employ no staff and are run by volunteers.  But some 130,000 are employed in the Third Sector. Some larger charities seek to be fugal with their money, but others employ staff—especially at executive level—at what they euphemistically call “competitive rates of pay”.

Chief executives at FTSE 100 companies average salaries top £4.9 million per year – 28 times the average charity chief’s salary, while NHS bosses at top hospitals can expect to earn at least £400,000.

Top earning Scots earn substantially less than their English equivalents, however, the highest paid in Scotland is Stuart Earley, SSPCA chief executive on a salary of £185,000. Laura Lee, executive in charge of cancer charity Maggie’s Centre, earns over £110,000 Bosses at Quarriers, Capability Scotland, Scottish Autism and SAMH are all on wages around  £100,000. Given that average Scottish wage is £26,000, rising at barely 1% each year, and that the poor give proportionally more to charity than the rich, charity bosses receiving generous raises to their already adequate remuneration is unfair, if not an insult. The number of staff at Scotland’s biggest voluntary organisations on a basic salary of more than £60,000 rose by 26% in three years.

The body that represents the charity industry in Scotland, the Scottish Council of Voluntary Organisations (SCVO, itself a charity) believes the level of pay afforded to key charity staff and chief executives “should reflect the requirements of the job”. It has over 60 paid staff, two of whom are on more than £60,000 each.

England’s Charity Commission censured a Hereditary Beast Cancer Helpline for spending only 3% of its £900,000 income on its professed aim. Overall, it is estimated that less than 70% of funds raised were spent on charities’ aims, with the largest (>£100m) charities falling to just 60%.

In case you think Scotland is leading the way on this, consider in England there are more than 168,000, whose collective income is above £75bn. The top five earners there are:

  1. David Mobbs, Nuffield Health. Salary over: £780,000
  2. Paul Holdom, London Clinic Trustees. Salary over: £390,000
  3. Jeremy Farrar, Wellcome Trust. Salary: £394,00
  4. Simon Cooke, Marie Stopes. Salary over: £370,000
  5. Michael Anderson, CIFF (UK). Salary over: £360,000

Oh, and as for the Office of the Scottish Charities Regulator itself (OSCR), it cost us all £1.7m last year, including £80,000 for the Chief Executive, Lindsay Montgomery CBE. So, even if you give nothing to charity, 25p of your money goes there each year.


About davidsberry

Local ex-councillor, tour guide and database designer. Keen on wildlife, history, boats and music. Retired in 2017.
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