Embrace the charity sector as a ‘key partner’, Chancellor urged

But civil society cannot be expected to ‘fill the void’ left by fiscal prudence, the think tank Pro Bono Economics says

Jeremy Hunt before the Spring Budget in March (Photograph: Carl Court/Getty Images)

The Chancellor of the Exchequer should view civil society as a “key partner” when setting out his Autumn Statement, the think tank Pro Bono Economics has urged. 

Jeremy Hunt will present his Autumn Statement on Wednesday (22 November), laying out the government’s latest tax and spending plans.

In a briefing ahead of the statement, PBE urged Hunt to reset the government’s relationship with the sector by “drawing it into genuine partnership” as part of his plans for recovery and renewal.

The document lays out the continued impact of the cost-of-living crisis on the UK public, noting that as of November this year, more than two in three adults were still spending less on non-essentials in response to the pressures.

It also notes that the number of people referred to charities and food banks by Citizen’s Advice bureaux has continued to rise, with as many people referred in the first seven months of 2023 as in the entirety of 2021.

Hunt must “match warm words with real action” for the charity sector, the briefing says, noting that when presenting his budget in March he made reference to the potential provided by civil society.

The briefing adds: “He must take the action that is required to get to grips with the twin economic and health challenges, while simultaneously providing support for those most exposed to continued difficult times.

“This means matching benefit increases with inflation, actively supporting the out of work back into employment, and investing in public services and public sector workers.”

The briefing says that the charitable sector, if properly engaged with, could be a “key partner” for the government in navigating these challenges.

But the think tank warns: “Civil society cannot fill any void the state chooses to leave in the name of fiscal prudence, not least because running hot for such a sustained period of time has left the UK’s charity sector at risk of burning out.”

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