The Air Cadets could indeed operate as an organisation and, because of its size, would probably have to register as a company. (As distinct from a smaller operation such as the local football club).
This would have tax implications plus need considerable increases in administrative manpower. Why then would a local body grant money to a business? And in return for what - it becomes a commercial arrangement rather than charitable. Bagpacks would probably still be in the picture (assuming the supermarket concerned supports you over other needy charities) but this now becomes taxable income.
A high number of volunteer staff would have to have employed status and accompanying rights - a red flag to the MOD.
To my knowledge, there has always been an element of charitable partnership in the cadets. Speaking to past members of seniority, this dates back years.
What is at the heart of pretty much ALL the difficulties in this area is that laws have been frequently updated over the last 15 years to reflect changes in society and higher standards of charitable conduct in a way that is increasingly incompatible with the operation methods of the uniformed side of the Air Cadets.
This combines with the fact that, as much as many squadrons may have problem CivComs, there is an increase in civilians who are knowledgeable on such matter - and yes, more knowledgeable than uniformed seniors running the Air Cadets. There is undoubtedly a tranche among these who cling to old ideals that see every debate and view as a potential threat to their control of the organisation and within a military organisation that can work because rank structure and discipline can be used to suppress.
However, Air Cadets is now a civilian organisation, run by civilians in uniform and with an historical and practical link to the RAF. This should be respected by all and I certainly do. Yet it is intrinsic to human nature that once something has been achieved, it becomes a possession. In all walks of life it can be termed ‘empire-building’ and when combined with a rank structure outside of a military condition, one has to work very hard as an individual not to succumb to the same protection of your empire. Sadly, many in the higher echelons of the ATC find this too difficult and, fuelled by their own fears, are unable to risk open and impartial debate for the good of the organisation as a whole.
Many will remember the flow charts of the three pillars of the ATC - Uniform, Religious and Civilian. Well the civilian pillar was/is supposed to feed directly to the Air Cadet Council, but has reduced over the years and any possible restoration seems a forlorn hope. It is sad, but wouldn’t it benefit the organisation as a whole if the knowledge and expertise in non-uniform matters were sourced from the wider civilian supporters with knowledge rather than titled people who sit around tables and take on roles with no real experience r idea and - perhaps worse of all - with a predetermined angle of defending their clique rather than inclusively enhancing the organisation for all. Not everyone out there is stupid or has bad intentions, if sometimes a little eccentric!
Back to the point … removing the charitable status of CivComs is not without problems. You would have to legally wind down the existing CivCom charities and the ATC has no legal status to have involvement. This is the conundrum as only the trustees can decide. I’m not saying that a CivCom trust wouldn’t wind down by ceasing fundraising and dripping out the money on cadet events. But imagine the chaos of having some 1,000 charities in a state of flux, no legal control and no idea what when and how. For ATC-HQ that is going to be too big a headache.
That said, there could be an argument for the ATC to become self-supporting financially, as with the Army Cadets. But this would buck the trend of public spending and fly in the face of the Sea Cadets who became wholly charitable some years ago.
Big_g’s suggestion of a half-way house is an interesting one, but any such move would have to come from within existing laws and the situation of the ATC is already well covered, it not being outside or above the law. The issue is more one of institutional acceptance, implementation and training before the wheels drop off. A change in attitude from senior management away from ‘what do we need to do to LOOK good’ and towards ‘what do we need to do to BE good’.