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Chief Executive's Comment - February 2016

Photo of Garry Jones, Chief Executive of Support Staffordshire

Sun 28 Feb 2016

Why Community Capacity and Google’s Tax Bill are about the same thing!

Yep, Google’s tax affairs and building community capacity are really the same thing and here is why…

When it comes to buzz words and fashionable phrases, Building Community Capacity is trending high these days. Cynics amongst you will feel this is about saving public money and cutting local government funding. And on the latter you’ll get my sympathies; local services (and councils) have seen an unfair proportion of the deficit reduction and its now really beginning to show.

But, suspend your cynicism and even the frustration I share over local public service cuts for a moment and you can’t be a true voluntary sector type and deny that more community based approaches would be a good thing. Why, because community development is about asking the people who are affected by decisions and services to be more involved in designing and delivering them. This means you get it more right first time and as I have said before, when you get it wrong they are a little more forgiving and will help you fix it sooner before it all goes really pear-shaped.

But even more deeply than this, Community Capacity Building is about harnessing two things – firstly the interests, passions, drive, energy and enthusiasm that everyone has for ‘something’. Finding that ‘something’ is often a challenge, especially when down-trodden communities and individuals who did not fit the school system have been convinced they have nothing to contribute. But give me or any voluntary sector bod half a day and we’ll tell you what Mr Smith or Mrs Goggins really care about, what could literally get them up in the morning. From gardening to knitting, motorbikes to astronomy, gaming to particle physics; everyone has a passion for some skill, craft, knowledge or interest in them somewhere.

Secondly, and this is where good community development comes in, nurturing that passion so that it can be channelled into the innate good of the community. Again, I argue, everyone wants not only to express their personal passion, but sooner or later to share it. This is certainly the approach that Support Staffordshire and partners will be taking if successful in our bid to work more closely with Staffordshire County Council over the coming years.

Er yeah, so Google?!? Well, the good bits of google are all about passion, drive and enthusiasm, for technology, for new media, for connecting people and information, a very noble and democratic sort of gift to the world really. It’s just the second bit that seems to have gone astray. Tax isn’t a punishment, or a penalty or even a necessary evil. It’s a contribution to the common good, a recognition of interdependence and the efficiency and downright logic of pooling resources when it comes to education, health and community facilities. Why would any right minded company, with all their skill and expertise and enthusiasm for life (which Google so clearly has), then fall at the hurdle of not contributing to the greater good through taxes? I find it more bizarre than I find it crooked…Google who works tirelessly to support millions of people connect and be better informed about the world, then deliberately deprives its customers and UK employees of the wider benefits of a connected society through publicly funded public services?!? Go figure.

So come on Google, don’t wait to be forced to pay the right amount of tax – just finish your own job when it comes to your Community Capacity – carry on with your passion and skill, but align it with the rest of us for the greater good, not personal greed.

Garry Jones

Chief Executive

Garry.Jones@supportstaffordshire.org.uk