The five-minute policy manager – November 2015

Spending Review

The Spending Review will be a crucial moment for charities
Image by Petras Gaglias

As the Spending Review approaches, NCVO will be looking at what the potential impact is for charities.

The recent blog post ‘Charities braced for Spending Review’ provides a helpful indication of what charities and the wider voluntary sector can expect on the 25 of November.

Stay up to date with all our analysis by following @ncvo #sr2015 on Twitter.

Business rates

In October, HM Treasury announced its plans to devolve a number of powers to local government in relation to local taxes, and in particular business rates.

NCVO, together with CFG and CTG, asked for clarification of whether control over rate relief would also move to local authorities.

We have now received a response from the exchequer secretary to the treasury, clarifying that the devolution of business rates does not relate to the mandatory element of charity business relief. However, concerns remain since the ongoing review of business rates is likely to make changes to the existing system of reliefs and exemptions.

For more information about NCVO’s work in this area please contact Michael Birtwistle.


As part of the inquiry into fundraising led by the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, our chief executive Sir Stuart Etherington gave evidence on 3 November.

You can watch the full session or read the transcript.

Charity Commission

The Commission has launched a consultation on enabling charities to file digital accounts. The aim is to make it easier and quicker for those charities that have to file with both the Commission and Companies House.

The consultation closes on 8 December 2015.

Public benefit

The Commission has made what it describes as a ‘small change’ to its public benefit guidance for fee-charging educational charities. The updated guidance now encourages trustees of charitable schools, as a matter of good practice, to comment on their individual approaches to public benefit in sports, drama, music and other arts in their trustee annual report.

The Commission has also updated its example trustee annual report for a charitable school to reflect the recommendation in the updated guidance.

The move follows concerns raised in Parliament during debates on the Charities (Protection and Social Investment) Bill that too few sports and arts facilities owned by charitable independent schools are accessible to students in state education.

Freedom of Information

The Independent Commission on Freedom of Information has announced a call for evidence, as part of its review of the law.

For an overview of the key issues see ‘What’s next for the Freedom of Information Act?’.

The consultation closes on 20 November.

Gift Aid

HMRC has published new model Gift Aid declarations, which must be used from 6 April 2016.

HMRC has also:

  • updated its guidance on the requirements for making Gift Aid declarations
  • published draft regulations which, from April 2016, will mean that the maximum amount of small donations on which a charity may claim a top-up payment for a tax year will be increased from £5,000 to £8,000.

For a more detailed explanation about what the changes will mean, see ‘Why your Gift Aid declarations will be invalid from April 2016’.

Counter terrorism

The Prime Minister has announced a £5m fund for charities and community organisations willing to form part of a counter-extremism drive.

The fund forms part of the government’s counter-extremism strategy. The strategy will provide money to support practical measures to support community groups which are working to combat extremism.

It includes a strengthening of the role of the Disclosure and Barring Service to ensure anyone with a conviction or civil order for terrorist or extremist activity is automatically banned from working with children and vulnerable people.

Judicial review over Cage funding

An agreement has been reached to settle the judicial review proceedings brought against the Charity Commission by CAGE Advocacy UK Ltd, where Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust appeared as an interested party.

There has been extensive media coverage about this case, so I will only highlight the important outcome, which is that the Charity Commission recognised that it does not have the power, in giving advice or guidance, to require grant making trusts, foundations or other funding bodies to fetter their discretion as to funding decisions that they may wish to make in the future in line with changing circumstances.

For a detailed summary of the case, see this summary note from BWB.


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Elizabeth was head of policy and public services at NCVO until 2020.

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