The inside track: March 2020

Our latest update on what’s going on in Westminster that might impact charities, including the budget, the Charity Commission’s upcoming select committee appearance, and how coronavirus might affect your influencing plans.

Parliament

The budget

Just a few weeks after taking on the job, Rishi Sunak delivered his first budget as chancellor of the exchequer. Our finance policy expert Paul Winyard has taken a look at what it means for charities.

Charity Commission

The digital, culture, media and sport committee has organised an evidence session on Wednesday with the Charity Commission’s chair Baroness Stowell, and chief executive Helen Stephenson.

It will be the first time that Baroness Stowell has faced the committee since they recommended she not be appointed to the role, though with an election in between there are a number of new members. The committee’s enquiry into the work of the Charity Commission is particularly looking at high profile investigations, the Commission’s strategy, and their overall performance.

People news

Select committees are now up and running, with all members appointed. Read the full membership list.

Labour leadership

The event to announce the new Labour leader, and all remaining hustings events, have been cancelled due to coronavirus, but the result will be announced at a ‘scaled-back event’ on 4 April.

Other appointments

Philip Rutnam has resigned as permanent secretary at the Home Office, and announced his intention to make a claim against the government for constructive unfair dismissal. He has been replaced by Shona Dunn on an interim basis.

What does coronavirus mean for influencing?

So far the desire to keep parliament open and ensure scrutiny goes on has outweighed the need for precautionary measures as the first confirmed case in an MP, Nadine Dorries, was announced. A number of other MPs who have come into contact with positive cases or are experiencing symptoms are also self-isolating.

But we are now likely to see more restrictions in parliament, particularly once essential legislation has been passed – ie emergency legislation to deal with coronavirus and ensuring taxation and spending is legally approved.

Understanding the potential impact of coronavirus on your organisation and beneficiaries and communicating that to government will of course be many organisations’ top priority currently.

If you have events booked or plans for major work for the next couple of months, it probably makes sense to keep them under review. Make sure you know the financial implications if and when you need to cancel. However, given where we are, that decision should be based not just on whether you can technically hold, but also whether that work is still likely to achieve what you had initially set out to do.

If you are working with MPs on a current issue and visitors are restricted or banned, you could think about ways to work with them that don’t require face-to-face meetings. But as ever, when a big issue arises you should also consider whether it would be possible to postpone parliamentary campaigns for later in the year, as parliament is likely to be very focused on dealing with the fallout.

NCVO’s coronavirus advice is being regularly updated.

 

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Chris Walker Chris is NCVO’s public affairs manager, focusing on parliamentary work. He started his career working for several MPs in Parliament, and has also worked in public affairs and policy roles for the Federation of Small Businesses.

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