NCVO chief says Liberal Democrat manifesto is not a coherent vision

But Stuart Etherington believes there are important commitments nevertheless

The Liberal Democrat manifesto fails to produce a coherent vision for the voluntary sector, according to Stuart Etherington, chief executive of sector umbrella body the NCVO.

Responding to the party's policy document, published today, Etherington said he was disappointed the manifesto lacked an overall vision "for the role the voluntary sector plays in supporting and strengthening communities.

"However, there are a number of important commitments, in particular removing the restrictions on the right to protest and proposals for easy-giving accounts," he said.

David Coulter, deputy chief executive of Co-operatives UK, the trade body for cooperatives, welcomed the party's commitments to giving responsibility for mutuals to a single minister and introducing legislation updating the law for cooperatives, mutuals and social enterprises.

"The manifesto emphasises that the cooperative model is a good way of doing business, and Co-operatives UK is pleased to see the Liberal Democrats recognising the power of mutuals to give people a proper stake in the places they work, spread wealth through society and bring innovative and imaginative business ideas to bear on meeting local needs," he said.

Hannah Terrey, head of policy and public affairs at the Charities Aid Foundation, said she was unsure that the pledge to introduce a 23 per cent single rate for Gift Aid would be the best deal for the sector.

"We are pleased to see their commitment to reforming Gift Aid, and they have been more specific than the other main parties, but we are not convinced that a composite rate is the best direction for reform," she said. "We would be concerned about a fixed composite rate of 23 per cent, which might have an unintended negative impact on the sector should the tax environment change in the future."

Stephen Bubb, head of chief executives body Acevo, said: "We were glad to see the Liberal Democrats demonstrate their specific measures to support a thriving third sector and their recognition of the sector's role in delivering services, strengthening communities and rebalancing the economy."

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