The public debate about charity mergers is being “skewed” and should be focused on national organisations, according to Lloyds Bank Foundation chief executive Paul Streets.
Speaking at the ICAEW Charity Conference last Friday, Streets criticised broad calls for more charities to merge, saying smaller regional organisations were often best placed to deliver public services.
He also said the argument that mergers can help charities achieve greater economies of scale does not apply to local organisations, and that merging can actually be a disadvantage in this regard.
Streets also said that local charities were “very difficult to merge” because they are “very personality-driven” and that often they do not want to grow.
However, Streets did say there was a debate to be had around national charities that deal with the same issue, saying “there are too many cancer charities, frankly”.
He said: “A paradox for me, and it is an insight from running big charities, is small local organisations are better able to deal with complex social issues than a big national (organisation) will be.”
This is because national organsiations tend to have a “standardised approach, layers of decision making, and deliver one product” and by contrast a local organisation is more likely to look at someone and “deal with the whole person”.
He added that his organisation is “concerned the merger debate is being skewed” by suggestions that there are too many small and local charities when there is a “reasonable debate about cancer and some of the health charities of which perhaps there are too many, but they are national, they are not local”.