The inside track: August 2020

Our latest update on what’s going on in Westminster that might impact charities, including the Lords covid committee, party leadership news, and how you can help ensure charities are on the agenda for the budget and spending review.

Parliament

Parliament is in recess at the moment, but it’s worth checking relevant committees if you haven’t already as a number of inquiries are taking submissions over the summer. In particular, it’s worth looking at the Lords covid-19 committee inquiry on life beyond covid, which is taking submissions until 31 August.

People news

Leadership elections

Douglas Ross has become leader of the Scottish Conservatives after no alternative candidates emerged. Mr Ross is currently an MP at Westminster, but will stand in the next elections to Holyrood, with former leader Ruth Davidson agreeing to stand in at First Minister’s Questions until then. The vacancy arose after the resignation of Jackson Carlaw, as thoughts increasingly turn to the elections in May, and the possibility of another referendum on independence.

The Liberal Democrats are currently electing a new leader, after delaying the contest due to coronavirus. The result is expected at the end of August, with former cabinet minister Sir Ed Davey the slight bookies’ favourite ahead of Oxford West and Abingdon MP Layla Moran, long-tipped as a rising star in the party.

Civil service changes

Sir Philip Barton has been named as the permanent secretary of the new Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. He has served in a number of foreign office and diplomatic posts.

A new cabinet secretary is also expected to be named shortly. This blog from Jill Rutter has a good rundown of the appointment process, and why candidates should be wary of being too open about their Brexit credentials.

Party conferences

Labour and the Liberal Democrats have announced some details of how their conferences will run online, though both still have limited information about what will be available for external organisations – though Labour have said there will be an interactive online exhibition. The Conservatives have also said their conference will be online, but as yet haven’t announced any further details.

A five point plan for charities, and what you can do to support it

With many sectors set to struggle into future years, despite the support that has been offered to help deal with the immediate crisis, it’s really important that MPs hear about the challenges that charities in their constituency are facing, so we’d encourage charities to make sure they’re talking to their local MPs about how covid-19 is affecting your work, and how you expect it will do so in the future.

With a number of charities already announcing planned redundancies, and more likely to follow, it’s clear that without ongoing support, charities are likely to become smaller and less able to respond to the many challenges that exist in society.

Along with a number of other charities who are part of the #NeverMoreNeeded campaign, we are supporting a five point plan to ensure that charities are able to support the recovery – if you do speak to MPs it would be great if you could mention this:

1.      A flexible approach and appropriate extension of the coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

With many employers, including charities, still not able to generate income in a normal way, a more flexible approach to the furlough scheme including extension where appropriate would help to ensure charities are well placed to respond to the demands placed on them by the virus, and to support the recovery.

2.      Introduce a Gift Aid Emergency Relief Package

This would get much needed funds to charities across the country by temporarily changing the way that Gift Aid is calculated. The proposal is for this to take effect from the beginning of the 2020-21 tax year and stay in place for two full tax years. By making use of the existing Gift Aid claiming processes that charities already have in place with HMRC this can happen quickly and easily getting cash to charities as effectively as possible.

3.      Repurpose and access the National Fund to support charity services

The National Fund is a charity that was set up to pay off the national debt in 1928, and as a result its resources, now amounting to around £500m have never been used. We think there is a sound legal basis for the National Fund to distribute funds to good causes, unlocking resources and allowing charities to do more to support the response at no cost to the exchequer, and would welcome the government’s support in encouraging the release of funds.

4.      Ensure effective and efficient distribution of the Shared Prosperity Fund

We’re likely to get more detail of the long-awaited Shared Prosperity Fund at the spending review, but it’s important that this funding is led through partnerships that develop community-driven solutions and build social cohesion and opportunities for people on the margins of society, so that it empowers charities to play their role in rebuilding Britain’s communities. It must also have the values of reducing regional inequality, supporting the growth of SMEs – which includes the majority of charities – and preserving and protecting the environment at its core. Crucially the funding should be equivalent to the EU funding which this scheme is replacing.

5.      Creation of a Community Wealth Fund using dormant assets

A future tranche of dormant assets worth approximately £2bn has been identified. We are part of the Community Wealth Fund Alliance which is arguing for that money to be used to create a permanent endowment fund that would enable long-term funding for local organisations.

 

We’d be keen to hear how your conversations with MPs are going (and it will help us when we’re looking to raise in parliament once recess is over), so feel free to email me on chris.walker@ncvo.org.uk to let me know, or if you’ve got any questions about what we’re asking for.

 

 

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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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