Wendy Mitchell is head of policy and public affairs at the Charity Retail Association
Cuts to charitable income are regrettable. We understand that councils are under financial pressure, but it's important that they take into account the social value that national and local charities provide through their charity shops - for example, by contributing to life-saving national medical research and to local services. Other local benefits should also be considered, such as volunteering and job opportunities, recycling and re-use activity and the footfall the shops bring to struggling town centres.
Gerard Cousins is director of retail and trading at Barnardo's
Charity shops make a vital contribution, raising millions of pounds every year for good causes across the UK. They are a hub on the high street and in many cases help to keep them alive. Barnardo's shops sell high-quality goods and provide jobs in the community. They also offer volunteering opportunities, which enhance career skills and promote recycling by encouraging the public to donate items rather than throw them away.
Business rate relief is crucial for us to support disadvantaged children, young people and families.
Cllr Peter Fleming is chair of the Local Government Association's Improvement Board
Government funding for councils has been cut by more than 40 per cent over the course of this parliament, and the level of discretionary relief granted to charitable occupation has largely been protected. The average over the past seven years is about £44.5m; in 2014/15 we expect rate relief for charities to be broadly the same. Councils want to help charities, but this comes at a direct cost. There is a trade-off between discretionary relief and the essential services councils provide, such as caring for the elderly and fixing the roads.