Five things for the voluntary sector to watch out for in today’s Autumn Statement

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The main news from today’s Autumn Statement will be whether the Government can meet its targets to eliminate the structural deficit and reduce debt. In order to do this, it is expected that the Chancellor will need to plan further ‘fiscal consolidation’ through cuts or tax rises in the order of £22bn – over and above the extra £26bn cuts already pencilled in at Budget 2012.

What does this mean for the voluntary sector? Here are my top five things to watch out for in the Autumn Statement today:

1. Further welfare cuts

The Chancellor is expected to confirm the timetable for Universal Credit rollout and details of his £10bn cuts to the welfare budget, announced at Conservative Party Conference last year. Commentators anticipate £4bn to be raised through a 2-year freeze in out-of-work benefits, from April 2013. There is also pressure for further cuts, for example to Housing Benefit for under-25s or pensioners’ benefits, but these would be more politically difficult.

Voluntary organisations that support people on benefits will need to watch out for these details and what they will mean for their service users.

2. Cuts to departmental expenditure

As the Chancellor is looking for further savings, including to fund further infrastructure investment in new schools and roads, he will be likely to cut departmental expenditure further.

Voluntary organisations that receive funding from statutory sources will want to watch out for this news. Any impact on local Government funding would be particularly bad news, as around half the sector’s income from statutory sources is from local Government.

3. Changes to business rates and fuel duty rises

With business rates due to rise by 2.6% next year, commentators think it is likely that the Chancellor will announce a postponement or reduction to this rate of increase.

Many voluntary organisations benefit from 80% mandatory relief on business rates; and some also get further 20% discretionary relief from their local authority. For any that don’t get the full 100% relief, any reduction in business rate rises will be welcome.

Likewise, the Chancellor last year postponed a planned 3% rise in fuel duty. If this is postponed again or cancelled, it will be welcome news for voluntary organisations looking to manage down their transport costs.

4. CRB checks

The new Disclosure and Barring Service will have responsibility for a number of reforms to CRB checks, including introduction of portable checks from April 2013.

Sector bodies including NCVO and Volunteering England have called on the Government to confirm that CRB checks will be free for volunteers. Any news on this will give a welcome boost to volunteering.

5. Outside bets

With a Treasury review still ongoing into tax barriers to social enterprise, there is an outside chance of an announcement around social investment tax reliefs. However, this is seen as more likely for Budget 2013.

Voluntary organisations working in the field of social care will want to watch out for any new funding or policy announcements.

Any big news around job creation and changes to the Work Programme.

NCVO will be tweeting our analysis from 12.30pm at #volsecbudget – join us there.

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 National Lottery Community Fund and the Department for Education.

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