Umbrella bodies call on Treasury to maintain business rate reduction for charities

A group of 10 voluntary sector bodies, including the NCVO, Acevo and the Charity Finance Group, say the 80 per cent relief is crucial

Ten voluntary sector bodies have urged the government to maintain the mandatory 80 per cent relief on business rates for charities. 

It is one of six recommendations made by the organisations in a letter to George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, before the Budget on 16 March.

The signatories, which include the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, the chief executives body Acevo, the Charity Finance Group and the social investment wholesaler Big Society Capital, recommend keeping business rates relief for charities at 80 per cent, which the letter says is worth £1.5bn a year to the charity sector.

Osborne announced in the joint spending review and autumn statement last year that councils would be able to retain funds collected through business rates but the final outcome of the government’s review of the business rate regime would not be published until the Budget this year.

The letter also calls for the establishment of a community capital fund supported by 3 per cent of the proceeds from government asset sales.

It calls for further increases in the National Insurance contributions allowance, which it says would ensure a "level playing field" between the private and third sectors on meeting living wage costs.

Other proposals include directing unspent apprenticeships levy funds from charities towards investment in voluntary sector skills. The letter says this would make the levy work for the sector and meet beneficiaries’ needs in the future.

The letter also says that windfalls, such as the Libor fines on banks, should be used to fund initiatives to increase the charity sector’s capacity, including governance and commissioning.

It says this would allow charities to address key issues and play a full role in public service transformation.

It also calls on the government to engage the voluntary sector on the Dormant Assets Commission, which was launched at the end of 2015 and is estimated will raise £1bn for the sector, to ensure its independence and transparency.

Caron Bradshaw, chief executive of the CFG, said in a statement: "Charities have already diversified their funding streams and have sought to streamline their operations. It is in the government’s interest to provide strategic investment in the sustainability of the charity sector – especially to small and medium-sized charities that are best placed to deliver services to those most at risk."

This comes after another submission made last month by the CTG, which called for the protection of existing zero VAT rates and reform of the Gift Aid donor benefit rules, and included proposals on the apprenticeships levy and business rates relief.

The other signatories to the letter were the local infrastructure body Navca, the Small Charities Coalitionthe black and minority ethnic charity representative body Voice4Change Englandthe community organisation membership body Localitythe Association of Charitable Foundations and the Lloyds Bank Foundation.

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