Lib Dems make no mention of big society in new voluntary sector policy paper

Document outlines ideas a Liberal Democrat government would implement, including modernising infrastructure, a deregulation plan for charities and tax incentives to encourage the rich to give

Liberal Democrats
Liberal Democrats

A new Liberal Democrat policy paper, which sets out the party's stance on the voluntary sector, makes no mention of the big society agenda that the coalition government is promoting.

The document, called Community Futures: Policies on the Voluntary Sector and Volunteering, reveals what a future Liberal Democrat government would do for the sector.

It proposes policies including a modernisation programme to update voluntary sector infrastructure, a programme of deregulation for charities and tax incentives to encourage wealthy individuals to give more to charities.

However, the 38-page document makes no mention of the big society agenda, under which the coalition government has introduced its voluntary sector policies.

The document was drawn up by a working group chaired by Baroness Liz Barker and discussed at the Liberal Democrat spring conference in Sheffield at the weekend.

It says a Liberal Democrat government would "use the tax system to increase giving by high net worth donors" and "develop fiscal incentives for companies to invest in voluntary sector development".

In addition, it says the party would require all legislative proposals to include a voluntary sector impact statement, and would retain the higher tax rate for Gift Aid – a departure from the party's previous stance, which favoured a composite rate for Gift Aid.

"We will fund a modernisation programme designed to enable voluntary organisations large and small, working locally, nationally and internationally, to update their infrastructure," it says.

The document reveals that the party would also run pilot programmes under which local authorities could act as guarantors for new local investment instruments. It would set up a "highrisk investment fund" with private investors, which would fund research and development for "innovative projects".

The policy paper also says the Liberal Democrats would support advocacy and campaigning by charities more than other political parties would.

"Unlike Labour and the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats believe that government support for the voluntary and community sector should not be determined solely by the extent to which it can deliver public services," it says.

"We believe that government has a duty to create an environment in which investment in voluntary organisations and philanthropy enhances their capacity to shape communities by research, advocacy and campaigning, as well as service delivery."

The party also proposes extending VAT relief for charities. "We believe that there is a strong case for further extending VAT refunds for charities when funds allow," it adds. "Even in the current financial climate, there is a strong argument for allowing refunds for organisations that are publicly funded."

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