Acevo chief criticises 'out-of-touch' announcements in Budget

Vicky Browning says substance of government vision is yet to be seen; other sector bodies criticise lack of strategic funding and lack of detail on the Shared Prosperity Fund

Vicky Browning
Vicky Browning

The Budget was "out of touch" with charities and failed to provide much-needed strategic funding for the sector, charity representative bodies have said.

Vicky Browning, chief executive of Acevo, said the government had failed to address concerns about a lack of financial support for the charity sector and the long-term impact of austerity on communities.

Earlier this month, and after this summer's publication of the government's Civil Society Strategy, Acevo, along with a number of other membership bodies, used its Budget submission to call for long-term strategic investment in the charity sector.

The submission also urged the government to use £2bn in dormant assets to finance the long-term future of the sector and to set up a UK Shared Prosperity Fund to replace funding from the European Social fund after Brexit.

After Philip Hammond presented his Budget to the House of Commons yesterday, Browning said: "As has come to be expected, the role of charities in the Budget was reduced to welcome but somewhat scattergun announcements about specific pots of money for specific causes.

"Much like the Civil Society Strategy, the Budget set out a more positive vision from government than in recent years, but the substance is yet to be seen."

She said that the "tone of the Budget felt out of touch with a sector whose leaders are telling us about rising demands for services", and added that many people were not seeing the benefits of recent economic upturns.

Caron Bradshaw, chief executive of the Charity Finance Group, said the announcements on charity tax and social care funding were to be welcomed but did not go far enough.

"It’s great to see funds for the military charities and air ambulances," she said. "However, worthy though those causes are, we desperately need the government to be more strategic in its funding of the sector as a whole."

Karl Wilding, director of policy at the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, bemoaned a lack of "big-ticket items" for charities in the Budget.

"Charities are playing an ever-bigger role in society and we’d like to see the government reflect this," he said.

"There is still no certainty on how dormant assets cash will be spent, despite an increasingly clear consensus among charities on the best way forward. Nor was there was any further explanation of how the Shared Prosperity Fund – set to replace billions in European funding – will work.

"We hope to see further details on these issues in the very near future."

Jay Kennedy, director of policy and research at the Directory of Social Change, criticised the lack of news on a UK Shared Prosperity Fund, the dormant assets scheme or the Charity Commission’s budget.

"Critically, local authority finance remains in limbo, which means continued chaos on the ground for local charities in their relationship with local government as demand for many services continues to increase," he said.

"Much still depends on the outcome of the Brexit negotiations and the planned Spending Review next year. Time will tell whether this Budget is worth the paper it’s written on."

Daniel Fluskey, head of policy and external affairs at the Institute of Fundraising, said the budget was a "business-as-usual" approach and called for more ambition from the government.

"After an aspirational Civil Society Strategy from the government this summer, we were hoping for a more ambitious programme to invest in fundraising skills to help small charities go the distance and get charity tax working better to reduce costs for charities and encourage giving," Fluskey said.

The Charity Tax Group welcomed the announcements about the increase in the Gift Aid Small Donation Scheme donation limit from £20 to £30 and the funding for village halls and military charities.

But John Hemming, chairman of the CTG, said that the government needed to go much further in examining how the VAT system affected the charity sector and review the effect of the insurance premium tax on charities.

Duncan Shrubsole, director of policy, research and communications at the Lloyds Bank Foundation, said the Budget was a "missed opportunity" that had "little more than a passing mention for the charities that are dealing with some of this country’s most complex social problems" and it "offered little to ease the pressures of austerity on local communities".

Peter Holbrook, chief executive of Social Enterprise UK, said the government had failed to back social enterprises in the Budget and instead "decided to rely on old-fashioned and failed economic ideas".

He said: "If we want to build an economy that truly works for everyone, we need to back a different type of business. There is little in this Budget to give people confidence that we are heading towards anything other than simply more of the same."

Tony Armstrong, chief executive of Locality, said the lack of information in the Budget about a UK Shared Prosperity Fund was disappointing, especially as it could help to "create prosperous local economies in places that policymakers have struggled to reach for decades".

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