Clarion Housing, HA Service Charges, Service Charges, Tenant & Resident Democracy

The Magic Charity Trick

By Joe Jenkins

The issue of charity chief executive pay has always been a thorny one, but what about organisations that have charitable status but are not charities in the traditional sense, such as housing associations?

Figures collated by Housing Today revealed that twelve housing association bosses ‘earned’ in excess of £300k in 2020/21.

Save the Children International

To put that into perspective, similar research by charity magazine Third Sector revealed that the chief of Save the Children International earned approximately £205k last year, and the boss of Cancer Research UK was paid £244k.

Next, the top executives of Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Barnardos and Royal National Institute for the Blind all received between £180k and £200k.

In 2018, Save the Children International spent over £200 million, reporting that they reached and assisted 40.8 million children in need, saving thousands of lives in the process.

The charitable activities of housing associations are small-scale projects compared to such charities. Clarion’s charitable arm (Clarion Futures) for example, spends on average £15 million per year to support 2,000 people into work, provide 250 apprenticeships, offer debt guidance, and assist around 15,000 young people.

And despite their charitable objectives, housing associations like Clarion simultaneously mistreat and impoverish thousands of their tenants, regularly breaching health and safety regulations, ignoring anti-social behaviour complaints and crimes, levying extortionate service charges, and allowing swathes of housing stock to disintegrate.

Is the charitable status of many large housing associations just a self-serving act? According to the Charity Registration organisation, there are many financial benefits to becoming a charity, including relief on income tax, corporation tax, stamp duty, VAT, rates, capital gains tax and inheritance tax.

Charity registration also helps create a pleasant public image they say.

The public perceives registered charities as being more credible than organizations which are not registered. This may raise the public’s confidence in your organization …

Charity Registration website

Against this backdrop, the ‘charitable projects’ of such organisations seem little more than classic diversionary tactics. Housing associations are primarily concerned with income generation and construction, not social benefit. The huge salaries to their top executives reflect this. They leave thousands of tenants in unacceptable living conditions, whilst accumulating a collective £3.8 billion surplus.

The squalid conditions of too many housing association properties has repeatedly hit the national press, including Clarion’s Eastfields Estate (above)

Whilst charitable activity is worthy, housing associations should be more rigorously governed to make sure that their core business of providing homes is carried out to an acceptable standard, that homes are safe from hazards, that repairs can be ordered swiftly and easily, and that service charging is honest and transparent. This would fundamentally improve the lives of around 3 million people who inhabit housing association homes in Britain, and free many from needing the services of charities.


16 November 2021

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own.

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