I would urge readers to go to the original but in summary the areas of discomfort identified by the PA include two points not unknown on this blog over the past nine years:
- Concern at the role of the British Council as gatekeeper, as the “go to” organisation for governments and public bodies, meaning that they get first dibs on whatever is going. The PA identifies issues in Colombia, Italy and Greece (and there are plenty more on this blog).
- Distress at the role of the British Council as competitor, and questions over whether its activities are “charitable” and consistent with its Royal Charter, and controls over the use “grant-in-Aid” money, specifically in supporting competition with British enterprise.
The submission closes with a generous way forward, asking for greater transparency in the organisation’s commercial logic and its accounting, and better external control (please note, FCO, that the combination of select committees with different agendas and supine “trustees” does not work). We would put it differently from the PA in that in our view the organisation is discredited, untrustworthy and out of order, and we would like to see more radical action. But there is a clear consensus around the view that the British Council is presently out of line and enjoying unacceptable privileges to the detriment of genuine British business, and this cannot be allowed to continue.
And to the FCO we would say this: please do not allow the British Council to obstruct, obfuscate and prevaricate any longer, and give all of us – not just those of us who work in international education but schools and publishers and training organisations and exhibition organisers and consultants at home and abroad and the fatigued taxpayer - the report and the outcome that Britain deserves.