The debate following the piece entitled "Work for a Charity" is getting pretty long and is of excellent quality, and I urge all those who come to this blog with an interest in the British Council to read it. Here's a link to the more recent contributions.
For a taster, here's part of a contribution that came in from "Arthur" today, referring to the nature of the cultural agreements under which the British Council typically operates:
I'd just say that my research makes me think that in most countries these agreements: a) are bi-lateral between the UK and a state (ie not a state and the British Council; b) have some clause covering the 'promotion of the English Language'; c) name the Council as the UK government's agent for completing the terms of the agreement; d) make no mention of commercial activity. Legal status is very rarely 'vague': the Council is HMG's agent under the agreement and the agreement doesn't exist to help 'UK plc' run a business in a foreign country.
The agreements never mention things like top-price fee-paying classes much less globally re-deployable surpluses. Can you honestly put your hand on your heart and say that you can't see why any host government would mind the Council relieving its citizens of large amounts of money and remitting it to help its own activities under another 'Cultural Centres Agreement' in another country?
I can understand your comment that 'the authorities have never taken issue, etc', but you must recognise that to take issue is to call into question the bi-lateral relations of the host state and the UK, because the agreements tend to be state-to-state, as I said above. It would be very difficult, delicate and embarrassing for a friendly state to 'take issue' when its first port of call would have to be the UK Diplomatic mission.
I am sure the point isn't lost on you: it's yet another example of the Council benefiting from links with the government from which it maintains it is independent.
As I say, don't miss it.