Friday, 31 July 2009

FakeCharity of the day

Having spent the morning on a family surfing lesson (as in 'the waves' rather than 'the internet') and the afternoon at the Blue Reef Acquarium (which is really good but either a tad expensive or a tad small, depending on your point of view), I haven't had time to trawl the usual sources today, so am indebted, again, to AC1 who asked, completely o/t, "Is Brake a fake?"

From the BBC:

Swindon has become the first English authority to scrap the use of its fixed speed cameras.

The Conservative-run borough council said it was reinvesting the £320,000 a year maintenance costs for the five cameras in road safety measures. The move does not mean the town will be left without any speed cameras as Wiltshire Police will continue to operate mobile units. The decision has been called "reckless" by the road safety charity, Brake...

Leaving aside the question of what "road safety measures' might entail - the article suggests it'll be "vehicle activated signs", i.e. another complete waste of money, let's have a quick look at Brake.

Their website screams fakecharity - it uses the same template as all the others, with sub-pages for 'Home', 'About us', 'Contact us', 'Our supporters' (as a variant on 'Support us' or 'Donate'), 'Jobs' and 'Links'.

The income in their 2007 accounts (see page 8)was as follows:

Corporate partnership £285,718
Donations £333,057
Road Safety Education £296,984
BrakeCare £75,979
Fleet Safety Forum £66,535
Research £3,360
Investment income £15,759

Their list of corporate partners seems innocuous enough. Donations include "Community Fundraising £236,319" (which might or might not be suspect). Note 3 to the accounts discloses income of about £70,000 from the Department for Transport, the Youth Justice Board, the Office for Criminal Justice Reform and the Scottish Executive. Those government departments are all duly listed on their site, along with Children in Need, which you might argue is not a fakecharity.

So far, so not so bad, really. Where it starts to stink a bit is on their list of Organisations working with Brake, which includes, along with some genuinely interested private groups, the following:

British Transport Advisory Committee
Chief Fire Officer Association
Child Accident Prevention Trust
Community Transport Association
Disaster Aftercare Services
European Secure Vehicle Alliance
The Intensive Care Society
Learn + Live
Pre-Hospital Care
Never Away
Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety
Public & Commercial Services Union
Road Operators’ Safety Council
Road Safety Markings Association
The Slower Speeds Initiative
Transport & General Workers Union
Transport Management Association of the NHS
University of Huddersfield

All of which appear to be quangos, fakecharities, public sector pressure groups and/or wholly or party funded or arganised by the government (there may be exceptions and I am happy to edit that list down a bit).

So, to cut a long story short, Brake appears to be, to a large extent, a fake.


Anonymous said...

The vehicle-activated speed signs aren't so bad. If you assume that the speed limit is there for a reason (and the absence of revenue-raising cameras removes the temptation to install "trap" speed limits) then a sign that pops up and says "steady on, now" is about the best you can get - it provides instant feedback, and might actually get people to slow down, rather than getting them to write a big cheque a few days later.

Mark Wadsworth said...

Anon, that is the general idea, but like all ideas, it remains to be seen whether it works in practice. They have some on a road near where I live and yes, OT1H I check my speed if they flash up and slow down if appropriate but OTOH I sometimes wonder whether they mean me or the car in front (I don't know how sensitive they are).

That's not the point though.

The point is, in practice, do they encourage reckless and incosiderate drivers to be more cautious and considerate? Or more crudely, how many deaths will be avoided for what cash outlay?

Maybe they do, maybe they don't, but you need large scale long term unbiased research to work this out.

Screaming Banshee said...

I see them as a challenge. If I can't light one up, I have failed. But then I've always been an arsey git when it comes to being dictated to. I've been driving 24 years without a single accident (including 6 as a minicab driver doing 40k miles a year).

Speed is not the problem, driving acumen is (and in many cases, people who can't cross the road properly). Placing arbitrary speed limits on all, irrespective of ability, will never hope to tackle the problem of road deaths.

It's doing something in order to be seen to be doing something.

In short. Bravo Swindon, now take the lead on using a different barometer to potential hazards than the silly idea that speed is the exclusive problem.

The Stigler said...

One of the best measure of a fake is the level of volunteering. A lot of the quango fakes have none at all.

I'm not sure at what time something becomes a fake. I know some people might say that if they receive any money, but I'm not sure.

There's a hospice near me which received a grant last year from the NHS, but it's less than 10% of their income, and it seems that they're doing what they did before. They've been around for decades, and will still be running if all that government money was taken away.

Pogo said...

Re: Vehicle Activated Signs... The Transport and Road Laboratory published a study some years ago showing that VASs were some four times more effective in slowing traffic down than speed cameras.

We have a few in the area where I live, but there effectiveness is somewhat reduced by them being set up by "zealots" - they flash at, or sometimes slightly under, the speed limit - which is just basically annoying. If they are set to trigger at the "ACPO limit" (speed limit + 10% + 2mph) they become very effective.

"Brake" is not exactly a "road safety" organisation so much as an "anti-car" lobbying group.

Pogo said...

"There effectiveness"!!! 'kin 'ell, proofread you dozy sod. "Their effectiveness"

Mark Wadsworth said...

Pogo, VASs might well be effective in reducing average speeds, especially the speeds of considerate/law abiding drivers, but that still begs further questions, for example:

1. What impact do they have on speeds of inconsiderate/reckless drivers?

2. Do they reduce the number of collisions/injuries?

3. Who are The Transport & Road Laboratory and did they have a vested interest in proving one thing or another?

Pogo said...

Hi Mark...

1. Probably nonen whatsoever. But neither do speed cameras. The only thing that has any effect on that group is plod en voiture, and there's perilous few of them left.

2. They might, but equally might not. The same applies to cameras. I suppose that if you apply Hans Joksch's formulae to any accidents that do occur there's a reasonable probability that they will have fewer repercussions due to the reduced speeds.

3. TRL is actually the government's own road research lab. If anything one would expect them to have a vested interest in cameras - they generate revenue, VASs don't. In the past they've been very quick to "lose" reports that don't "prove" that speed cameras are the second coming of road safety.

neil craig said...

Brings up the question of how much of its income has to be government for it to be fake. One could say 100% but I think quite a bit less than that would give government full control of anything they wanted. At the other end you could say 10% (which I incline to) since that should pretty well cover operating including advertising expenses so that it is quite possible there could be a good charity, giving money to the needy, attached to a government advertising organisation. When it comes to TV appearances & any "report just issued says..." it would be a fake. Of course if its running expenses are significantly above 10% it is probably a traditional sort of fake.

There are also a lot of "charity" sites that have a page for applying for jobs but none for donations which raises suspicion.

Mark Wadsworth said...


to point 2, I agree, 'collisions' are irrelevant it's just metal bumping metal, it's injuries to third parties that matter. To point 3, that is very interesting indeed, thanks.

Neil, nearly every charity get about 20% of its income from the government, it's called GiftAid (and various other tax exemptions).

OT1H, maybe there's a grey area, OTOH, if you really believe in something, be that road safety or sanctuary for donkeys, why should the government decide which causes are worthy and which are not?

neil craig said...

Giftaid doesn't strike me as a problem because it is a flat tax allowance. Thus the donor tather than the government dictates which "piper" gets paid & thus calls the tune.

Mark do foreign charities aimed at promoting technology (I am thinking of the X-Prize Foundation) get this aid?

The Remittance Man said...

Brake are "officially" a fake charity if one checks

Mark Wadsworth said...

NC, GiftAid is a problem because:
a) The government decides who gets it and who doesn't.

b) Why should I, as a taxpayer, be forced to co-fund the vast bulk of charities with whom I violently disagree?

"Promoting technology' is not a charitable aim in itself (I think) so that falls at the first hurdle, but there's no reason why a non-UK body with charitable UK activities couldn't set up the UK activities as a separate UK charity, AFAICS.

RM, at least fakecharities,org have strict rules on who is and who isn't. My gut feeling is that Brake are a fakecharity, but that's more on the basis of their output than how they are funded.

gyges said...

What's your definition of a FakeCharity?