Wednesday 31 October 2012

The Mucky Business of Wonga

It takes a certain kind of person to run a company that takes advantage of people in desperate times, to squeeze money out of them when they have nowhere else to go. The kind of person who would do such a thing should be admonished by society for preying on the needy. However, this government sees him as a person to go to for advice and to send senior advisers to lobby on the company's behalf.

Monday 29 October 2012

Complaint Over Think Tank 'Charity' Sent to Charity Commission

Over the last month Social Investigations has researched the free market think tank, Reform, which to the discredit of the Charity Commission rules, is also a charity. The findings led to the conclusion that a complaint to the Charity Commission was justified under both misleading the public and questioning their political independence.
Reform are important because they dream up policy for selling off our public assets like the NHS and the police and the Conservative party make policy based on their research. Their corporate partners are major global and UK corporations and scooping the financial rewards from the privatisation dreamed up by Reform.

Reform is seen by many organisations on both sides of the political spectrum as being an arm of the Conservative party, everyone recognises this except it would seem, the Charity Commission.

The Research revealed:

·      All the founders are linked to the Conservative party
·      Three out of the five trustees have direct links to the Conservative party
·      There are multiple companies who are Reform’s corporate partners who are linked to Lords and MPs
·      They were involved in lobbying to maintain ‘competition’ in the health and Social Care bill
·      They promote privatisation in all public sector areas
·      They make a claim on their website that is misleading
·      They hold meetings with ministers and corporations where no minutes are held using Chatham House Rules
·      The Conservatives have launched two policies at Reform

The Complaint sent to Charity Commission
Reform Research Trust – Charity Number: 1103739

The complaint against Reform centre on two areas:

·      Misleading the public
·      Political independence

1. Misleading the public

Misleading statement
Reform state on their website: 'We are keen to involve corporate organisations in our research because their expertise is often left out of the Whitehall policy discussion.'

I am providing a selection of files on three companies that are corporate partners to Reform in order to provide evidence that Reform’s statement on their site regarding the above statement is at best misleading and at worst deception.

In addition to the same point above, I am providing a list of the corporate partners with their links to MPs and Lords and a list of what area each company influences government policy.

The companies I have selected are:
·      Aviva
·      BMI Healthcare
·      G4S

I chose three simply because I didn’t want to inundate your organisation with files on all the companies that make up their corporate partners to make the point. The files represent those companies only, although the same would apply to all the other corporate partners and I would be happy to supply more if required.

Reform currently has 31 corporate partners; many of them represent some of the most powerful companies in the UK.

Current members are:  ABI, Aviva, Balfour Beatty, Benenden Healthcare Society, Bevan Brittan, BG Group, BVCA, Cable & Wireless, Capita, CH2M Hill, Clifford Chance, Citigroup, The City of London, Ernst & Young, GlaxoSmithKline, G4S, GE, General Healthcare Group, HP, ICAEW, KPMG, Maximus, McKesson, MSD, Optical Confederation, PA Consulting Group, Serco, Sodexo and Telereal Trillium.

These companies are not left our of Whitehall policy. As the files will show, they are often involved at various levels helping to develop policy.

Many of these companies are financially linked to Lords and MPs from all parties, although largely the Conservatives and in many cases they are in leading positions: Please see File titled Reform MP company links.

In one particular case, the director Andrew Haldenby specifically speaks up for and on behalf of G4S as it mentions in the G4S file.

Reform receives money from donations and sponsorship. Companies often sponsor an event so that they can lobby. The policy that these companies influence ends up creating more wealth for the companies and is not for the charitable aims of delivering economic prosperity to the people it claims to do. Not once in their summary return do they mention promoting privatisation, and yet through their corporate sponsorship, and work, this is exactly what they are doing.

2. Political independence.

The next complaint looks at their political independence.- See links to Conservative party here.

‘The guiding principal of charity law is that charities should be, and be seen to be, independent from party politics.’

Based on the statement above, Reform is not within charity law as their powerbase is almost totally towards the Conservative party.

I have produced a separate file for this titled: ‘Reform links to the right’.

Sunday 28 October 2012

Reform think tank and their links to the Conservative Party

Reform calls itself independent. However the research below brings this claim into question in what appears to be the breaking of the Charity Commission rules for all charities to remain politically independent. Download as PDF

The 'charity’s' claim to independence is based on having one Liberal Democrat (Jeremy Browne) and two Labour members (Lord Warner and MP Frank Field) and a Conservative MP, (Julian Smith) on their advisory team. These however do not represent the overall dominance of the organisation towards the Conservative party, which can be seen by the powerbase, of the founders and trustees. The bullet points below represent a list of these connections.

  • All of the co-founders have links to the Conservative party.
  • Reform is recognised as part of the Conservative party movement by multiple medium including the Conservativehome. 
  • Two MPs to emerge from Reform both belong to the Conservative party
  • Two of the trustees have provided money to individuals in the Conservative party
  • Two of the trustees and a director have advised two Conservative MPs

Monday 22 October 2012

Privatising Probation: What Reform says – Government does

If you want to know what future government policy is going to be, don’t bother asking your government because they won’t tell you until it’s too late. Instead, turn your eyes to a right-wing think tank masquerading as a charity.

In February 2011, Reform, a free market think tank, produced a brochure based on a meeting held at global law firm, Clifford Chance, titled: ‘21st century justice’. The meeting in large part discussed the probation and prison service and the need for change. 

Thursday 18 October 2012

Response from NHS Commissioning Board on NHS Brand Vacancy

I sent an FOI request to the NHS Commissioning Board in relation to the vacancy they announced for a NHS Brand manager as part of a team. The vacancy was originally highlighted by Roy Lilley. I almost feel like apologising for asking you to read it, but please do. The response below is utterly bewildering and my comments are at the bottom.

Friday 5 October 2012

Reform - a voice for corporations – G4S

G4S are the most powerful security company in the world, so why do a 'charity' need to offer them further support?

Bringing the activities of the think tank Reform to the public eye, Social Investigations is producing a series of articles which looks at the corporations they partner, and their claim that they are excluded from Whitehall policy. So far, the corporations covered have been Aviva and BMI Healthcare.
Reform's claim is this: 'We are keen to involve corporate organisations in our research because their expertise is often left out of the Whitehall policy discussion.’ – Reform website – corporate partners page

Thursday 4 October 2012

MPs and Lord's Financial Links to Free Market Think Tank

As part of a series of investigations looking into the free market think tank Reform, the financial links between our so-called public servants, corporations and Reform has brought into question whether Reform should be stripped of their ‘charity’ status.

Now Social Investigations has revealed the list of companies that give money to Reform in either donations or sponsorship who also are employing or have financial connections to our so-called public servants in key sectors of our society.