Tories say they would use Brexit cash to 'reduce inequalities'

The party's manifesto, published today, says it would set up a 'shared prosperity fund', but there is little mention of charities

Theresa May pictured in the Conservative manifesto
Theresa May pictured in the Conservative manifesto

The Conservatives have promised to use money that comes back to the UK after Brexit to establish a new fund that will "reduce inequalities between communities across our four nations", should they form the next government.

The Tory manifesto, published today, includes a pledge to set up a "shared prosperity fund" that will help "every part of our country share in the prosperity and opportunity of our great United Kingdom".

The manifesto, unveiled today in Halifax by Prime Minister Theresa May, makes virtually no mention of charities or social enterprises in its 86 pages.

Social investment is not mentioned, nor is volunteering.

The manifesto does not include the pledge made in the 2015 Conservative manifesto to compel large companies to give their employees three days a year additional leave to volunteer, which appears to have been quietly dropped.

It is not clear whether charities will specifically have the opportunity to benefit from the new shared prosperity fund, on which the Tories say they will consult widely.

The fund will be "cheap to administer, low in bureaucracy and targeted where it is needed the most", the manifesto says.

"Current EU-wide structural funding was designed to tackle disparities, but it is expensive to administer and poorly targeted," the manifesto says. "As we leave the European Union, we must look at how we can better reduce and eliminate these inequalities.

"We will use the structural fund money that comes back to the UK following Brexit to create a United Kingdom Shared Prosperity Fund, specifically designed to reduce inequalities between communities across our four nations. The money that is spent will help deliver sustainable, inclusive growth based on our modern industrial strategy."

The manifesto says a Tory administration would maintain Britain’s commitment to spending 0.7 per cent of gross national income on aid for developing countries and international emergencies.

But it says the party wants to change what counts as international development spending, suggesting the Conservatives would like to expand the definition.

"We do not believe that international definitions of development assistance always help in determining how money should be spent, on whom and for what purpose," the manifesto says.

"So we will work with like-minded countries to change the rules so that they are updated and better reflect the breadth of our assistance around the world.

"If that does not work, we will change the law to allow us to use a better definition of development spending, while continuing to meet our 0.7 per cent target."

It does not give further details of what definition the Conservative Party would prefer or what that would mean for international development charities based in the UK.

The manifesto also promises a "full-scale review" of the business rates system to make ensure it is up to date.

It says revaluations would be conducted more frequently to avoid large changes to the bills that businesses face, and that a Conservative government would explore the introduction of self-assessments in the valuation process.

But it does not say whether the business rates relief currently granted to charities, worth almost £1.5bn a year, would be affected.

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