…and five things I wish the chancellor had said

We have a long-term plan for charities and the tax system

There was much to be positive about in today’s budget for any number of charities that were targeted with injections of capital investment or VAT relief. These were unalloyed good measures for those concerned. Yet I can’t but think that these make for good politics, less so good policy. On issues like VAT it feels like we need a longer-term vision for how the tax system supports organisations to work together to deliver services, and in doing so helps charities to meet their potential in solving some of the bigger issues facing the next government. Not without risks for the sector, but I wonder if another charities tax review wouldn’t go amiss?

We need to move more quickly to help small charities

We often get feedback from small charities that the odds are stacked against them and that this seems to get more difficult every year. Fundraising training for small charities will help – thank you, chancellor. The small donations scheme should have been the home run here, but so far isn’t. Today’s increase of the limit only takes us to second base. This needs a real look under the bonnet at the complex rules surrounding its use: government has committed to this for 2016, but a greater sense of urgency would give small charities more confidence that they were being heard in government.

Our long-term plans for public spending centre around early intervention

For a chancellor rightly concerned with the long-term, a focus on early intervention should surely be the centrepiece of any budget when it comes to public spending. This is another one where every now and then we see glimpses of what’s possible in terms of government priorities, but the reductions in department expenditure limits, particularly for the local government bit of DCLG, once again outlined the transformation required in service delivery if we are to meet increased expectations and demand. There is much more to be done here.

We want to transform public service commissioning

If early intervention is about reducing the demand side of the equation, then better commissioning is about the supply side. We get feedback here at NCVO on a regular basis that public service commissioning isn’t working for anyone but the biggest commercial outfits – creating the too big to fail scenario in some areas. Indeed, the recent announcement that Serco was writing off £1.5bn on their public sector contracts suggests it’s not even working for them. I wish the chancellor would ask whether this is value for money for taxpayers and what a different system could look like.

We want to continue building on the philanthropy of local communities

Local authorities across the land have been dealing with what some have termed the localisation of spending cuts, a challenge handed on to the voluntary sector in numerous cases – just look at Liverpool last week. Philanthropy can make up some of the difference, especially with a push from government in terms of match funding. So I wish the chancellor had built on one his major successes, the endowment match challenge, to encourage more local giving.

What do you wish the chancellor had said? Comment here or tweet @ncvo

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Karl Wilding served as NCVO's chief executive from September 2019 to February 2021.

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