Charity umbrella bodies have urged the government to engage more meaningfully with the sector to avoid policies which are damaging to charities and those they support.
Senior leaders from NCVO, the Charity Tax Group, Locality, the Institute of Fundraising and the Charity Finance Group were discussing how the chancellor’s next Budget could be used to support charities at the All Party Parliamentary Group on Charities and Volunteering, convened by NCVO yesterday.
Andrew O’Brien, head of policy at CFG, said the government needs to decide “what it thinks the point of civil society is”.
He said that a number of government measures in recent years had made things “more expensive” for the sector, because charities had not been considered.
He cited the apprenticeship levy as an example, as it “does not cover things like volunteering”. He said that CFG had been given assurances but “nothing ever came of that”.
He also suggested that tax policy should be the responsibility of Parliament, rather than the government of the day.
“Parliament can take a more cross-party long-term view,” he said, whereas governments end up focused on “undermining previous governments”.
‘Passing money around’
O’Brien said the current system where charities get tax reliefs in some areas and are then taxed in others feels like is just “passing money around”.
He urged the sector to be “bold” in calling for reform of the tax system because while it is difficult to quantify the sector’s impact, “civil society is at the core” of many issues the government is grappling with.
He said the enthusiasm for the sector from Tracey Crouch, minister for civil society, and Matt Hancock, culture secretary, was a positive step but it will depend on “whether they will have the power to force the rest of government to listen to them”.
O’Brien said charities need to focus on getting government “sold on the big ideas” to establish the “political will to enable smaller changes”.
‘We need a strategic and engaged approach’
Elizabeth Chamberlain, head of policy at NCVO, said that what really matters is that the government takes a more “strategic approach” and engages better with the sector.
She said the government needs to understand that many of the sector’s activities “relieve the state”, and that is why they “should be encouraged” through a supportive tax environment.
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