News Special: Budget - Brown uses landmark Budget to launch review of sector's future

Mathew Little

Chancellor Gordon Brown used his tenth Budget to announce a cross-departmental review into the future role of the third sector in "social and economic regeneration".

Brown said the study, first revealed in Third Sector two weeks ago, will be based on the largest consultation ever undertaken with the sector and will involve every region of the country.

A special cross-departmental ministerial group will examine the "long-term priorities of the voluntary sector in the context of the future challenges that society now faces". It will feed into the next Comprehensive Spending Review.

Campbell Robb, director of public policy at the NCVO, will be seconded to play a lead role in the review, which will be formally launched at a conference in May, the Treasury said.

Stephen Bubb, chief executive of Acevo, said: "It's a good move. It's all about ten-year trends, which is very much the NCVO's job rather than ours."

The Budget also brought the announcement that an Office of Charity and Third Sector Finance will be set up in the Treasury. It will co-ordinate all aspects of the sector's tax and spending issues, and will provide strategic oversight for the review of its future.

The office will be advised by a panel drawn from the voluntary sector, which will include young volunteers, umbrella body representatives and members of faith groups. It will report directly to the Chancellor.

The Charities' Tax Reform Group, which expressed disappointment that Brown had not addressed the VAT issue in his Budget, warmly welcomed the establishment of the office. "Anything that looks at the whole spectrum of tax and fiscal policy as it affects charities can only be helpful to the sector," said Nick Kavanagh, the group's chairman.

Brown said the Government would also support the development of the sector through three imminent initiatives: the publication of its response to the recent Public Accounts Committee on funding the sector; the Home Office's action plan for increasing the sector's delivery of public services; and the Department of Trade and Industry's action plan for social enterprise.

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