Third Sector At Large: Hide the bruiser and bring out the charmer instead

Chloe Smith, the Economic Secretary to the Treasury, is to be the good cop in the government's attempts to get the sector back onside

Chloe Smith, the Economic Secretary to the Treasury
Chloe Smith, the Economic Secretary to the Treasury

- The government has evidently decided it needs to repair the damage done to its relations with the sector by the recent abortive attempt to cap tax relief for charitable donations. A bit of a charm offensive is under way - but who to lead it? They could hardly ask DDavid Gauke, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasuryavid Gauke, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury (right), who played bad cop in the torrid confrontations before the U-turn. So the good cop is to be Chloe Smith, the Economic Secretary to the Treasury and the government's youngest minister. She is now seeking opportunities to emphasise the government's undying commitment to the sector, as evidenced by the forthcoming small donations bill and, er, stuff like that ...

- Of course, the quick and easy way to mend fences would be giving back to the Big Lottery Fund the £425m the last government borrowed from it in 2007 to help finance the Olympics. The argument that it can't be done until the sale of the Olympic property estate is complete in the 2020s clearly won't wash - since when did a memorandum of understanding prevent a government from doing what it wants? And even in a recession, the sum involved is relatively small change. Now, if Smith were to announce that, the Treasury would go from zero to hero in a trice.

- But how hard is the sector going to fight for this? The Directory of Social Change, which receives no subsidies - sorry, partnership funds - from the Office for Civil Society, has firmly nailed its colours to the mast: see Debra Allcock Tyler's broadside. Not much noise from the other big hitters, though - a feeling, perhaps, that asking for another U-turn would be pushing their luck? At least there's plenty of support behind the scenes, not least from Big Lottery Fund types, who of course cannot be named because they'd be dragged out and hung up by their thumbs.

- Actually, there is another bit of legislation on the way for the sector. Chloe Smith told the Commons last week that a clause in the Finance Bill would make it lawful for charities to claim Gift Aid more than once a year. They do that all the time, of course, but it seems the government has only just realised that it was inadvertently outlawed some time ago. Oops.

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