The Queen’s speech: key points for the sector

Her Majesty’s 69th speech to parliament yesterday announced plans for the forthcoming legislative session. Overall, it was a fairly uninspiring collection of bills. Even insider sources tell me that the most pressing issue of the day was whether they could get the speech printed on new parchment, rather than vellum.

Though some of the Coalition’s plans are significant in their scope, there is little urgency about the next raft of legislation. Systemic reforms – to the banks, social care and pensions – will all be debated by parliamentarians over the next year, but may well end up mired with much of the parliamentary timetable taken up by Lords Reform.

Some points of interest for the sector were:

Small donations bill This bill confirms a 2011 budget commitment to top-up small donations made to charities, without requiring Gift Aid paperwork. NCVO has welcomed this measure and will shortly be responding to a HMRC consultation on technical design of the scheme. Our priority will be ensuring that the scheme is easy for charities to access, and not disproportionately bureaucratic.

However, press coverage yesterday was wrong to describe this new scheme as compensating for other changes impacting on the sector. Sir Stuart Etherington of NCVO commented: “While the scheme is welcome, it sits uneasily against the backdrop of the tax relief cap on donations, which is projected to cost the voluntary sector £500 million. Rather than giving with one hand and taking with the other, the Government should take heed of the widespread opposition towards the cap and drop it as quickly as possible.”

Draft local audit bill This bill will abolish the Audit Commission and introduce new local audit arrangements for public bodies. Many of NCVO’s members will have an interest in ensuring that the bill provides for appropriate oversight of local authorities, and empowers local organisations and people to scrutinise decisions.

Green Investment Bank The long-awaited Green Investment Bank will be established as part of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill. Pending legislation and anticipated State Aid approval, the bank will attract new private investment in green infrastructure projects.

International development This bill enshrines in law the Government’s pledge to dedicate 0.7% gross national income to aid. It also reorients DfID’s work to focus on the private sector and economic development. Cabinet Office briefing also mentions that the Government’s Emerging Powers Initiative will support a small programme for civil society engagement.

Other bills focussing on competition and regulation, children and families, and the courts, will be of interest to some of NCVO’s members. More info is available from the Cabinet Office website.

Let us know what you think about the Queen’s Speech –  we’ll do our best to answer any questions.

NCVO Policy Team’s blog

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Charlotte Ravenscroft was NCVO’s head of policy and public services. Charlotte’s wrote about funding, public service delivery, and strengthening the evidence base for voluntary action. She has also worked at the Big Lottery Fund and the Department for Education.

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