As the countdown to 12 December continues, all the major parties have now released their manifestos to the general public. Two years ago, charities were disappointed with the lack of major policy announcements for the sector, with many avoiding any mention of their work beyond the superficial. But with a pivotal general election under way, and charities encouraged to increase their campaigning this time around, what have the parties promised?
The party has pledged to use the UK Shared Prosperity Fund – the UK’s replacement for EU funding after Brexit – to put £500m towards helping disadvantaged people. The party would also ensure the fund was better targeted than its EU predecessor and, at a minimum, matched the size of existing funds in the UK.
The manifesto also commits the party to using government procurement to support innovation and reiterates support for the role charities play in delivering public services.
Civic infrastructure such as libraries and museums will get a £250m boost, the manifesto says, and a Cultural Investment Fund will be created to "support activities, traditions and events that bring communities together".
The proposals include a £150m Community Ownership Fund, which would allow communities to take over local assets or civic organisations, £500m for new youth clubs and services, and the maintenance of existing international aid spending.
Labour’s manifesto has a glut of policies that could indirectly benefit charities, with councils likely to see significant increases in funding and some policies, such as free broadband, likely to help reduce the costs faced by the sector. The manifesto also arrives a few months after a detailed civil society strategy was published by the party.
The party has pledged to repeal the lobbying act, a promise it has maintained in previous general elections. The act has been controversial in the charity sector and was blamed for charities not speaking out as much as possible at the 2017 election.
Private schools – many of which are registered charities – would see tax loopholes, such as that related to VAT, closed. The manifesto says the party would "ask the Social Justice Commission to advise on integrating private schools and creating a comprehensive education system". Pubs will also be designated assets of community value.
But in a section on local council funding, the party says it would look to bring local services back under local authority control. Many charities have taken over council services in recent years, although the manifesto does not explicitly say whether charities would be affected by the proposals and which services would be targeted.
There is little specifically tailored to the charity sector in the party's manifesto, but there is a commitment to help the social enterprise sector. The manifesto says the party would "provide a supportive framework to develop social enterprises – businesses with a social focus rather than a profit motive".
The Lib Dems say they would replace business rates with a commercial landowner levy based on the land value of commercial sites, and increase council funding throughout the next parliament. The party would protect sports and arts funding through the National Lottery and calls for the implementation of the Time for Change report on the commissioning of services for people with learning difficulties and/or autism, a report authored by the former chief executive of Acevo, Sir Stephen Bubb.
All UK-registered organisations – including charities – would be required to "report all instances of documented abuse overseas to government", with the potential for refusing funding to organisations that failed to do so. For charities affected by last year’s safeguarding scandal, this could prove important.
Scottish National Party
The SNP have promised to support changes to lottery laws to "reduce bureaucracy and maximise returns to good causes", and have committed to voting to keep the UK's aid commitment at 0.7 per cent of GDP, albeit only for humanitarian aid projects.
The party's MPs will also call on the UK government to replace funding for emergency service and military charitiesfrom Libor banking fines. The Libor grant scheme has now closed, having provided funding for the sector since 2012.
The party says it wants to "extend the use of dormant funds to support civil society", but gives no further details on how this would be achieved in its "contract", which it published in lieu of a traditional manifesto.
Other policies that would affect charities include abolishing inheritance tax, redirecting 50 per cent of the foreign aid budget to domestic causes, reforming business rates and scrapping the apprenticeship levy.
As expected, the Greens have focused on tackling the climate crisis and implementing a "Green New Deal" to transform the economy, including divestment from ecologically harmful industries. But there is little on how the charity sector could play a role in the implementation of a greener economy.
The party does commit to reversing cuts to local council funding and devolving power to a more local level, both of which could benefit the charity sector, increasing international aid from 0.7 per cent of GDP to 1 per cent and replacing business rates with a land value tax.
The manifesto does have two policies targeting specific parts of the charity sector. First, the Greens would remove charitable status from private schools and charge full VAT on fees.
Second, the Greens would increase transparency among think tanks – some of which are registered charities – by "establishing a distinct legal entity for political foundations which conduct policy research and political education". The manifesto does not say whether charitable think tanks would be able to retain their charity status as a result.