The Folkestone Labour party asks "Do charities cause poverty and unemployment?".
Before we jerk those knees (but do keep them on standby) there is a real issue at the centre of the argument: Folkestone's empty shops and the competition our large number of charity shops present to local businesses. Both are serious matters of concern to every resident.
The problem: the charity shops don't need to pay, and I quote, "Taxes, Insurance, Wage Costs, interest rates and Payroll Tax." which (as well as not necessarily needing to pay even for the goods they sell) makes them formidable competition to small businesses such as second-hand bookshops.
Of course there are ways to help the businesses that exist already and to encourage new ones to take over the empty shops and office spaces in our town centre. Lower the taxes and reduce the business rates. If the business rates are lowered just in our area, isn't that likely to encourage local business creation and movement of small businesses from other parts of Kent to Shepway? That way no one is being forced to do something by the local/national Government, but they are getting an incentive to do business here. Of course it'd involve some budgetary changes in the council but then again the gains might be worth it.
But that's not Labour's approach. Instead they would force, in Folkestone or throughout Shepway, all these charity shops to take on at least two employees. So instead of the willing volunteers (who have given up their time through a passion for fund-raising and helping the community) they currently get helping them, they'd need to give themselves the same shackles as currently faced by the small-businesses Labour claim to want to protect (i.e. wage costs, payroll taxes etc.). That's like seeing one child with a sweet and one without and confiscating the sweet as the one without felt sad! It's petty and authoritarian and it's a plan designed to punish the goodness in people.
And the idea that, aside from the central issue of the new Oxfam bookshop, most of the charities earnings go to fund head offices, overseas work and staff costs is a little heartless. Oh there is some truth there, sadly charities have become more and more like businesses (so how treating them LIKE businesses helps I don't know). But to say charity shops like the one in my street (the Rhodes Minnis Cat Sanctuary shop, who Labour probably thinks puts the cat in "fat cat") or the British Heart Foundation shop, or the Cancer Research Store don't benefit local people and simply create poverty is to cast them in an unfair light. To say no one in Folkestone benefits from the work of the YMCA, British Heart Foundation, or Cancer Research is a cruel lie.
Let's help businesses in ways they'll find useful, not punish charities just to create some sort of fake "level playing field". Next we'll need to ban local eBayers or boot fairs for undercutting the second-hand book and furniture shops! That way madness lies.
If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist