Tories would ban raids on lottery funds

The Conservatives would introduce legislation to outlaw government raids on lottery funds, would make key parts of the Compact enforceable and would resist relaxing the rules on political campaigning by charities.

These pledges were made by shadow charities minister Greg Clark as the Tories gathered for their annual conference, with Gordon Brown still deliberating over calling a snap election.

The pledges came in response to a request from Third Sector for both main parties to summarise their policies on key issues facing the voluntary sector as the parties prepare for a possible ballot (see below).

Labour's position was summarised by voluntary sector minister Phil Hope, drawing on current initiatives from the Government and proposals in the third sector review, including a revision of political campaigning rules.

The rival agendas emerged as voluntary sector representatives spoke from the platform in the debate on social exclusion at the Conservative Party conference in Blackpool on Monday (see sketch).

The debate, led by shadow work and pensions secretary Chris Grayling, centred on Breakthrough Britain, the recent publication from former leader Iain Duncan Smith's Social Justice Policy Group.

 

Where they stand on the voluntary sector

 

 

 

Campaigning

 

 

Phil Hope, Minister for the Third Sector says...

 

The right of charities to campaign is vital. The third sector review brings a focus on enabling third sector campaigning, including investment in innovative consultation approaches and using the Compact to protect the right to campaign.

 

Greg Clark, Conservative charities spokesman, says ...

 

Charities already run highly effective and hard-hitting campaigns under current rules. The Government must not be allowed to politicise the sector and undermine its independence. Charities must not become fronts for political parties.

 

How others see it

 

The Charity Commission confirmed last week that, after the third sector review, it is going to revise CC9, the document that sets out the rules on political campaigning by charities. A draft of the revision is expected in November.

 

Public service delivery

 

 

Phil Hope says...

 

Action has begun to give the third sector a greater role in design and delivery of services, including trainingpublic service commissioners, improving the procurement process, developing template contracts and establishing a research centre.

 

Greg Clark says ...

 

Public service delivery is the greatest opportunity for and the greatest threat to the voluntary sector. Existing rules are unfair; root-and-branch reform is required. Contracts should be long-term. Tender processes can be too short and subject to change.

 

How others see it

 

The CFDG and Agenda Consulting found that 25 per cent of charities lost at least 3.3 per cent of their income on service delivery contracts. The National Consumer Council found consumers don't always see charities as the best public service providers.

 

The Compact

 

 

Phil Hope says...

 

We are committed to embedding the principles of the Compact at every level of government. The Compact Commission was established last year to strengthen it. One of our priorities will be to support the commissioner.

 

Greg Clark says ...

 

The Compact is great on paper, weak in practice; this is a deliberate Labour policy that we would change. Key provisions would be made enforceable and, where necessary, strengthened. Full cost recovery should be a floor, not a ceiling.

 

How others see it

 

The Compact Commission is seeking a new chair after the unexpected departure of John Stoker. Stephen Bubb, chief executive of Acevo, said recently that the job requires "someone with hard boots and steel in their spine".

 

The lottery

 

 

Phil Hope says...

 

We and the Big Lottery Fund have protected third sector money and the transfer of £425m to the Olympics will come from the third of BLF cash that would have gone to statutory agencies. The transfer will not affect existing grants.

 

Greg Clark says ...

 

Labour is already setting the funding arrangements in stone. A Conservative government would do its utmost to protect the voluntary sector's share of the funding. We will pass legislation to outlaw government lottery raids.

 

How others see it

 

Voluntary sector bodies including the NCVO have said that, although Big Lottery Fund voluntary sector grants were protected, parts of the sector funded by sports, arts and heritage lottery distributors will suffer because of the Olympics raid.

 

Gift Aid

 

 

Phil Hope says...

 

We are consulting on measures to drive up giving through Gift Aid. The Treasury expects to publish a summary of responses following the end of the consultation last weekend and will report on progress later this year.

 

Greg Clark says ...

 

Gift Aid was started by the last Conservative government. We would improve the system, reduce the paper chase involved and increase uptake to offset the impact of the £70m cuts implemented by Gordon Brown in his last Budget.

 

How others see it

 

The main voluntary sector representative groups last week submitted a radical plan to simplify and increase the take-up of Gift Aid, which is likely to test the sincerity of the Government's pledge to help small charities use it more.

 

VAT

 

 

Phil Hope says...

 

Two reviews have concluded it would not be affordable or efficient to reimburse UK charities for the VAT they incur. It would, sector estimates say, cost more than £500m. Instead, we continue to focus on providing targeted support.

 

Greg Clark says ...

 

I understand the concerns of the voluntary sector over the fairness of the VAT regime - any changes would have to be agreed with the Treasury.

 

How others see it

 

The Charity Tax Group and others have pledged to continue working to secure political backing to reform irrecoverable VAT for charities, which they say means they cannot compete on a level playing field with the private and public sectors.

 

 


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