Helen Martin: Charity salaries are barking mad

Charity supporters pay to help starving dogs, not to fund the CEO's salary. Picture: comp
Charity supporters pay to help starving dogs, not to fund the CEO's salary. Picture: comp
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ANYONE who knows me, even casually, knows how passionate I am about pets and animals in general.

I’ve always had at least one cat throughout my life, spent decades around horses, and we are now on our second retired greyhound. But even I am horrified that the Scottish SPCA’s chief executive, Stuart Earley, gets a basic wage of £216,320.

People put money in cans or pay-in direct debits because they want to help that poor starving dog with the big eyes and prominent ribs in the heart-tugging publicity photos – not because they want to keep a businessman in luxury.

The usual charity defence is that, somehow, an expensive CEO will bring in more money for cruelty prevention and rescue. I fail to see how when he is trousering so much of it himself. I care not that he is paid more than some people heading up human charities, because so many of them shouldn’t exist at all! They are doing work that should be paid for by drug companies, private income or the government through taxation.

Hospitals, schools, medical equipment, cancer research, mental health and child agencies, including the NSPCC, shouldn’t have to depend on charity, certainly not in a country where mere business executives earn hundreds of thousands of pounds.

I accept that some people may object to paying taxes for animal welfare and therefore, in their view, funding the Scottish SPCA should be a voluntary decision. That’s fine – I’m happy to sign up. But only on condition that I am not agreeing to fund Mr Earley’s salary.

The rescue and rehoming centre staff and running costs, the vet bills, the food supplies, the inspectors, the vans, and all the other practicalities are perfectly acceptable. Had the chief executive been paid a reasonable professional income of, say £50,000, I could accept that. I’m sure there are retired, well-off captains of industry who love animals and would give some of their time and expertise for nothing to add to the board’s assets. That, after all, is how charities used to be run a few decades ago rather than, as today, commercial businesses with hefty salaries, unscrupulous call centres, and bonuses to match.

Charities in general have taken a major wrong turning with their 
ambitious and commercial restructuring. More and more of their income goes on salaries and the administration of the operation rather than the beneficiaries – human or animal – for whom we all donate.

Diverting all that fundraising to individuals’ inflated pay packets means less and less for the beaten dog, the starving child, the children’s hospital, or whichever charity the public supports.

The total irony is that while most of the population are struggling to keep their jobs, terrified of unemployment, receiving negligible rises, unable to buy their own home or afford a holiday, they dip into their dwindling resources to help the less fortunate or support good causes, and wind up paying the six-figure salaries of charity “professionals”.

Surprisingly few organisations have adapted to the recession and its aftermath. But charities must change their “boom-economy” model and revert to the old ways. Otherwise, we can’t afford – and shouldn’t even try – to support them. They are betraying our generosity.

GIVING IT A BAD NAME

READER Otto Inglis beat me to it when his letter pointed out one of Scotland’s first Named Persons has been put on the sex offenders register. It’s not too late for the SNP to abandon this bonkers idea which is a guaranteed vote loser.

Children need to go with the Flo

WHEN I was young, we swung on ropes in the woods, climbed trees, made camp fires and waded in the burn. From the age of seven or eight we caught buses to the swimming pool, riding school, cinema or beach. We met bullies and learned how to cope with them. We explored quarries, built dens and got muddy. At school, we made ice slides in winter and played conkers in autumn. All without adult supervision. The only times we went anywhere with parents were to buy school uniforms, go on holiday or to church.

So three cheers for Baroness Floella Benjamin, pictured, ex of Play School, whose government report warns of the “climate of adult fear”, “tiger parents” and “health and safety culture” which today is stifling kids’ development, independence and readiness for adulthood. I hope it succeeds, but I think it may be too late to turn the clock back.

Kind motorists drive me wild

MY grumble of the week is drivers who are too polite and who, with total disregard for the Highway Code, throw others into disarray by their “niceness”.

They unexpectedly wave pedestrians across a busy road without realising a driver in another lane can’t be expected to see the hazard they are creating for everyone. They will stop dead with a trail of traffic behind them to invite someone ahead to turn right across their path, even when they have right of way.

Slow off the mark at traffic lights and incapable of overtaking a stopped bus, they are just as infuriating and dangerous as people who don’t indicate, don’t use their mirrors or chat on their mobiles.

Sometimes it’s not nice to be nice and infinitely better and safer to obey the rules.