A Ukip government would scrap the National Citizen Service and other big society programmes, save £2.25bn over the next government by clamping down on "fake charities" that spend public money on non-charitable activities and develop food banks into "community advice centres".
These pledges are contained in the UK Independence Party’s 76-page manifesto for the 2015 general election, launched today.
The manifesto says the party "believes we can make considerable savings at the same time as improving democratic accountability". Proposals listed under this heading include reducing the number of ministers, a tougher regime for MPs’ expenses and merging government departments. Another is "clamping down on so-called ‘fake charities' or state-funded political activism". The party says that stopping "non-charitable expenditure funded by government" would save £250m in the first year of government and £500m in each of the following four years.
The final proposal is "abolishing unnecessary quangos such as the Cabinet Office’s ‘big society’ programme (£49m), the National Citizen Service (£62m), DfID’s International Citizen Service Volunteers (£110m) and Defra’s Waste Resource Action Programme (£15.5m)".
The manifesto does not make clear how it calculated the £49m cost of the big society. The most recent Cabinet Office accounts, for the year to 31 March 2014, show that of a total Office for Civil Society spend of £170.4m, just less than half of that went on the NCS.
The manifesto says that it is "deeply regrettable that there is increasing demand for food banks in 21st century Britain", and says it will "develop them into community advice centres for those most in need". The manifesto says: "Ukip will train and fund the cost of 800 advisers to work in 800 food banks, so the poorest in our society have free and easy access to timely help in their hour of need."
A Ukip government would exempt food banks and charity shops from charges imposed by local authorities to dispose of unwanted food waste and other goods, the manifesto says.
The party says it would create a dedicated minister for veterans in the Cabinet Office, leading a "veterans administration" that would coordinate the work of existing veteran services and charities. It would fund a service in each county to coordinate services, including "community agents and the voluntary sector", working with older people.
The manifesto says Ukip would repeal recent legislation committing to aid spending of at least 0.7 per cent of national income on aid, saying it objects to "money being spent on politically correct vanity projects that do nothing to lift developing nations out of poverty". It adds: "We also believe charity should begin at home."
One of the party’s central promises is a referendum on European Union membership. It says that outside the EU the government would have more control over VAT reliefs and would be able to zero-rate certain goods and services that have previously had VAT charged on them, such as repairs to listed buildings and sanitary products.
Ukip’s manifesto is critical of the Conservative and Labour records on NHS privatisation, but does not make clear what role, if any, third-sector providers would have in the health service. On public contracting, the document says: "Ukip will make it easier for small and medium-sized businesses with 250 employees or less to tender for public sector contracts."