Counter-extremism group’s financial woes show flaws of ‘big society’

Quilliam's case shows the shortfalls of private funding, and the danger of the pace of the Tory-led government's programme of swingeing cuts, writes George Readings.

Dame Elisabeth Hoodless, the outgoing director of the UK’s largest volunteering charity, has today warned of the damage being done to the ‘big society’ by government cuts. Under the headline ‘Coalition cuts funding for counter-extremist group’, today’s Times (£) provides a good example of how this can occur.

For those who cannot breach the paywall, it states:

A counter-extremist group of the kind lauded by David Cameron in his attack on multiculturalism has had its Government funding slashed, in a move that has infuriated some ministers.

This contrast between the prime minister’s support for organisations which counter extremism and his government’s failure to fund the most prominent one is also commented on:

Some Tories said the call was ironic given the cuts to Quilliam, which has been at the forefront of the agenda articulated by Mr Cameron. Paul Goodman, the former Tory MP and communities spokesman for the party, said:

“Quilliam is a kind of counter-extremist body that fits in with the Prime Minister’s vision, so the Government should look again at the winding down of its funding.”

From working to raise awareness of important initiatives such as Minhaj ul-Qur’an’s anti-terrorism fatwa and Muslim-led protests against al-Muhajiroun to publishing a pamphlet dismantling the BNP’s anti-Muslim rhetoric, Quilliam has been at the centre of fostering a civic challenge to extremism in the UK for several years. Having worked for Quilliam, I can attest to the gratitude that many other groups have to it for providing them with the tools and arguments they need to fight Islamist and far-right extremism.

As a not-for-profit working with a range of individuals and groups, Quilliam was the ‘big society’ in action. It was also largely government funded.

Inevitably, counter-extremism work is controversial. Islamist and far-right groups barraged Quilliam with hatred, and death threats have even been made on al-Qaeda affiliated online forums. To those unfamiliar with the counter-extremism agenda, this must have been a bewildering array of attacks on a single organisation, particularly where attacks emanated from groups that had previously tried to pass themselves off as moderates.

No wonder so many trusts and foundations that were initially keen to fund Quilliam’s work pulled out at the last second.

Even potential donors who understood and supported Quilliam’s mission were often unwilling to contribute financially because Quilliam had criticised Israeli excesses in the Occupied Territories at the same time as criticising suicide attacks inside Israel. Quilliam faced accusations of being anti-Israel and anti-Palestine at the same time, ruling out funding from a plethora of sources.

As a result, when Quilliam’s government funding was cut late last year, no private donors could fill the gaping hole left in the finances. Several of my colleagues and I were made redundant. Inevitably, Quilliam’s contribution to the UK’s counter-extremism efforts – whose importance David Cameron himself emphasised just days ago – has been reduced.

Quilliam’s case shows the shortfalls of private funding, and the danger of the pace of the Tory-led government’s programme of swingeing cuts. At the very least, the government should be working with groups to help them to transition to different sources of funding, rather than cutting them off entirely. The risk otherwise is that cuts will kill off the very ‘big society’ the Tory-led government claims it is trying to create.

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11 Responses to “Counter-extremism group’s financial woes show flaws of ‘big society’”

  1. Ma

    RT @leftfootfwd: Counter-extremism group's financial woes show flaws of 'big society': ….>I shouldn't hehe but I am!

  2. georgereadings

    My take on @QuilliamF's funding woes @leftfootfwd @PaulGoodmanCH @johnmcternan

  3. georgereadings

    My take on @QuilliamF's funding woes @leftfootfwd @PaulGoodmanCH @johnmcternan @MaajidNawaz

  4. BigSociety Live

    Counter-extremism group's financial woes show flaws of 'big society' – Left Foot Forward #BigSociety

  5. 13eastie

    Quilliam is NOT a charity (as it styles itself in its Annual Report) if its existence depends on funding taken by force from the tax-payer (to whom it also has no accountability).

    Half of Quilliam’s income is spent on salaries, according to its most recent accounts. No wonder genuine, voluntary donations are hard to come by… No wonder there are “financial woes”…

    State-funded gravy trains are NOT the model for Big Society.

    P.S. Cameron did not once mention Qulliam in his speech, as appears to be suggested here, by the way.

    P.P.S. “Tory-led government’s…”. Twice in the same paragraph! Have two Baldwin Brownie Points!

  6. Richard

    Oh look, that other full-time retard troll. I would call him an arse but he’d probably think I was calling him an elbow.

  7. Mr. Sensible

    We’ve seen several examples of government cuts undermining the ‘Big Society.’

    No wonder Liverpool is now not a part of it.

  8. Andrew

    What do you expect from the Tories? Even if they like what you do – they don’t want to pay for it!

  9. Mike Thomas

    I struggle to see what part of government spending is ‘voluntary’ as per the Big Society. Think tanks and various forms of wonkery are not charities, they survive on government spending.

    The Big Society has never been conflated to the pressure groups and special interest groups that live on the edges of government. The Big Society is about charities funded by voluntary giving, it is about people giving their free time for nothing to aid their immediate communities.

    If these groups are serving no useful purpose that has any intrinsic value that they cannot secure voluntary funding; why are they in existence?

  10. Mikebloke

    This stuff is quite hilarious, the one thing we Muslims actually agreed on with the Quilliam Foundation was the condemnation of Israeli slaughter of civilians and pointless attacks from Palestinians on the Israeli public.

    This _was_ noticed and was a pleasant surprise. Everything else QF has ever said have been baseless opinion without any fact finding or research; often attacking Muslims themselves and not even worth labelling as constructive criticism. I’d quite happily do their job better, and for free as a British Patriot.

  11. Daniel Pitt

    RT @leftfootfwd: Counter-extremism group's financial woes show flaws of 'big society': writes @GeorgeReadings

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