06/09/2011 03:42 BST | Updated 05/11/2011 05:12 GMT

RNLI Boss Criticises Big Society

The head of one of Britain's biggest charities has given an uninspiring appraisal of David Cameron's Big Society project, questioning if it has contributed anything to the voluntary sector.

Paul Boissier, chief executive of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), also criticised the recent VAT increases as a government raid on public donations.

In an interview with The Times newspaper, Mr Boissier, 57, said: "If I understand the Big Society, it is about engaging members of the public to get involved in their communities.

"Well, the public has been doing that for a long time.

"Of course, we and other charities would say more volunteers are very welcome, but to be quite honest we don't need the assistance of politicians to do that.

"The people who are motivated to do it are doing it already and I'm not sure what the value added has been in making it part of political debate."

The former Royal Navy officer who took over at the RNLI two years ago also called on the Government to "go easy" on taxation if it really wanted to help.

"The people who give money to charities want to see it go to good works, not into the government coffers," he said, referring to the increased 20% VAT rate.

"We do our best here to serve the public, not to help the Government finances out."

The RNLI is wholly funded by donations and relies on more than 40,000 volunteers - something the Big Society project promotes.