Editorial: Charities will be hit by the new round of cuts

There are few bright spots for them in last week's spending review by George Osborne, writes Stephen Cook

Stephen Cook
Stephen Cook

It was a victory of sorts that the Charity Commission's budget will be cut by 6 per cent rather than 10 per cent in 2015/16. It will mean the loss of 20 jobs rather than 40 and just about allow it to carry out its core tasks to an adequate level.

It's also welcome news that the core budget of the Office for Civil Society will remain unchanged at £56m - a small real-terms cut. There was a 10 per cent cut in the resources of its mother department, the Cabinet Office, but the OCS has been severely enough pruned already.

There are one or two other bright spots for the sector in the sixth year of austerity announced by George Osborne in last week's spending review, which was in effect the opening salvo of the next general election campaign.

The continuing expansion of the National Citizen Service will offer some voluntary organisations the chance to do more good work, for example, and the ring-fencing of the overseas aid budget will reassure development charities.

Taken in the round, however, the spending review is hardly good news for the sector. The 10 per cent extra cut in local government funding and the squeeze on benefits will only increase the pressure on social welfare charities already struggling with rising demand and dwindling resources.

Even the decision to turn the bulk of English Heritage into a charity is a mixed blessing. The intention is that it should become self-financing, but the arrival of another fundraising charity will increase pressure and competition in the heritage and environment sector.

The root cause of the extra cuts is the failure of the economy to grow as the Chancellor hoped when he forecast at the last election that the worst of austerity would be over by 2015. He's been forced to take another £11.5bn out of Whitehall spending.

Meanwhile, as Sir Stephen Bubb contends in our interview, both main parties have somewhat lost their way on voluntary sector policy. They would do well to rethink their formulae and weave them coherently into their pitches for 2015.

Read about what the spending review means for the sector

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