Charity leaders disappointed at George Osborne's Budget announcements

George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer
George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer

Charity leaders have described today’s Budget as one of "booby traps and sugared pills" and as a "massive missed opportunity".

The Budget speech in the House of Commons by George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, contained little of immediate note for the voluntary sector, although sector sources said they understood the government had decided to leave the 80 per cent business rate relief for charities unchanged. 

Sir Stephen Bubb, head of the charity chief executives body Acevo, said the Budget contained "booby traps and sugared pills" and was "not so much jam tomorrow as problems down the line".

He said it was a matter of regret that the new set of grant agreements announced as part of the government's banking fines disbursement would have "anti-advocacy gagging clauses contained within them", and called on the government to rethink the measure as a matter of urgency.

But he said he was there was a "crumb of comfort in an otherwise bleak picture" in the fact there was no immediate change to the 80 per cent rate of business rate relief enjoyed by charities.

"This could potentially have placed up to £1.5bn worth of income at hazard at a time when the sector and its beneficiaries cannot afford it," he said.

"The reliefs still may be localised as the devolution discussion continues and we will have to continue to make this case for our beneficiaries’ welfare," said Bubb. 

Caron Bradshaw, chief executive of the Charity Finance Group, said today’s Budget was a "massive missed opportunity".

"Like the wider economy, charities are facing a dangerous cocktail of cost pressures such as the national living wage and the apprenticeships levy as well as disappearing grants and more challenging contracting," she said.

"Yet cuts for private businesses were not met with a similar package of support for charities."

She said the needed to adopt a more strategic approach when it comes to investing in the charity sector and recognise that supporting the sector is one of the best ways for it to achieve positive social change.

"We are also seeking assurances on business rate relief and a categorical commitment that it will be protected in the midst of devolution to local councils," she said. 

Neil Cleeveley, chief executive of the local infrastructure body Navca, said the Budget showed that the sector needed to be more assertive in calling for investment in "the amazing things charities do to enhance our lives". 

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