The year in policy & politics: 2011

Third Sector deputy editor Andy Ricketts rounds up the sector's major political stories of the past twelve months

Houses of Parliament
Houses of Parliament

Government attempts to drive up giving were a major story in 2011. The coalition published its Giving Green Paper on 29 December 2010, which led to a white paper in May. The white paper contained more than 30 proposals and pledges, interlaced with references to existing measures, to help increase the giving of time and money in the UK to charitable causes, including an extra £30m to support voluntary sector infrastructure and a £10m Social Action Fund.

The government’s austerity measures began to kick in and its quango cull resulted in the closure of the infrastructure body Capacitybuilders and the Commission for the Compact in March.

The Office for Civil Society's strategic partners programme was also scaled down from £12.2m last year to £4m this year and will cease in 2014. The loss of funding hit some organisations such as TimeBank and Volunteering England hard, and significant job losses ensued.

George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, brought some cheer to the sector in March when he announced measures to encourage people to leave money to charity in their wills and allowed charities to claim Gift Aid on donations of up to £5,000 without submitting any paperwork. However, the end of transitional relief on Gift Aid donations and the rise in VAT to 20 per cent in January was predicted to cost the sector an extra £250m a year.

Nick Hurd, the Minister for Civil Society, launched various funds to help charities, including the £107m Transition Fund, the Community First match fund and Transforming Local Infrastructure. But OCS spending on the sector is due to fall by 61 per cent to £74m over the next three years.

Labour shuffled its pack in October as Gareth Thomas, Labour and Co-operative MP for Harrow West, became its shadow minister for civil society, replacing Roberta Blackman-Woods, who moved to a role shadowing the Communities and Local Government department. Meanwhile, Jon Trickett, MP for Hemsworth and a former parliamentary secretary to Gordon Brown, replaced Tessa Jowell as shadow minister for the Cabinet Office.

Thomas began taking on the government over its record in areas including the creation of mutuals and its Work Programme. He and Stephen Timms, the shadow employment minister, held a summit to tackle what they called the "growing crisis" facing charities in the employment scheme.

The story of Atlantic Bridge, the charity founded by the former Conservative defence secretary Liam Fox and which had objects including the fostering of relations between Europe and the US, dominated the national newspaper headlines during the autumn. Fox resigned after the controversy surrounding him and his colleague Adam Werritty, who was a director of Atlantic Bridge, became too great. The charity was wound up on 23 September and removed from the register of charities a week later.

The Public Service (Social Value) Bill, introduced by the Conservative MP Chris White, continued its passage through Parliament this year.

The bill, which would require public sector commissioners to consider an organisation’s social value when procuring services, progressed to the House of Lords after passing its third reading in the House of Commons in November.

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