The inside track: August 2021

Our latest update on what’s going on in Westminster that might impact charities, including a number of bills and the latest on the levelling up agenda.

Parliament

Charities bill

The charities bill had its second reading in the House of Lords and will go into committee when the House of Lords return.

While the bill was welcomed by peers, there were questions over possible omissions. In particular, Lord Hodgson’s recommendation that the Charity Commission should be able to refer a point of law to the Charity Tribunal without the permission of the Attorney General. If you want to find out more about what’s in the bill, we’ve produced a joint briefing with ACEVO, ACF, the Charity Finance Group, the Charity Retail Association and the Chartered Institute of Fundraising.

Police, crime, sentencing and courts bill

The controversial bill has now passed all of the stages in the House of Commons and will receive its second reading in the House of Lords on 14 September.

NCVO and other civil society organisations have opposed additional restrictions to the right to protest, and measures targeting gypsy and traveller communities. Ahead of the second reading, Liberty, Bond, Friends Families and Travellers, Quakers in Britain and Friends of the Earth are coordinating a joint open letter to the Home Secretary and Justice Secretary.

They’re keen for organisations to sign-on, at a senior level, so please do share the google form with senior colleagues if you think it’s something your organisation might support. The statement will be open to sign-on until 31 August.

Elections bill

A new elections bill has been published and will receive its second reading in the House of Commons on 7 September. The bill contains new rules that may impact charity campaigners, including a new lower threshold to register under the Lobbying Act.

Third-party campaigners will need to register if they spend at least £10,000 on campaigning that meets certain tests during the registered period, but will not have to carry out full financial reporting. While we don’t think there are many charities spending between £10,000 and £20,000 (the main threshold), we’re concerned that charities may approach campaigning in elections more cautiously as a result.

The bill also introduces digital imprints, bringing online activity in line with physical materials such as leaflets. While this is a welcome step to ensure transparency in campaigning during elections, it’s important that the law and guidance is clear and straightforward for charities to comply with.

Dormant assets bill

The dormant assets bill will return to the House of Lords after recess for the report stage. The bill, which will unlock new funding for good causes, has moved through previous House of Lords stages straightforwardly. However, there has been some debate over the extent of the powers the government has to set future directions for spending. We hope the government will consult extensively with charities and other stakeholders who will be affected. The bill has also seen the campaign for a Community Wealth Fund step up, with significant support for the idea in the House of Lords.

Levelling up

NCVO has published a revised version of the paper we presented to the government’s ‘levelling up agenda’. It focuses on the key priorities for levelling up, making sure that we build stronger communities as well as a stronger economy.

The paper was supported by over 200 charities and voluntary organisations who fed in initial recommendations and comes ahead of the expected publication of a levelling up white paper in the autumn.

UK Shared Prosperity Fund

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government is currently leading work on developing the new UK Shared Prosperity Fund, which is expected to launch next year. If you have accessed, or tried to access, government funding in the past, they have put together a short survey to help inform the design of the fund, which can be completed until 20 August.

Two new MPs

There are two new MPs after by-elections earlier in the summer. Labour held Batley and Spen narrowly from the Conservative party. Kim Leadbeater, the sister of Jo Cox, who represented the seat until she was murdered in 2016, has become the new MP for Batley and Spen.

Sarah Green won a surprising victory for the Liberal Democrats in Chesham and Amersham, winning the seat from the Conservative party. This is sparking discussion over whether the Conservative party’s ‘blue wall’ is under threat in certain seats in the south of England.

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Avatar photo 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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