The Chancellor has made some promising noises but he is guilty of one fatal error. He neglects the vital role of the third sector to building a healthy society and economy. His announcements on national infrastructure said nothing about local, community or third sector infrastructure. In his drive for a budget surplus, we are concerned that he will jeopardise already-decimated local services further. This will harm not only our nation’s sense of togetherness but our economic productivity as well.
As we stated in our 2015 General Election Manifesto, ‘Free Society’, charities are the nation’s ‘other social safety net’. The next government must recognise us as key allies in reform, not as an afterthought.
I’m delighted with the VAT announcement. I have been arguing this case for yonks, along with ACEVO’s membership and much of the rest of the sector, so we welcome the promise to refund VAT on hospices, search and rescue and air ambulance organisations. We argued for this in our submissions to the Department of Health, and it is good to see the Chancellor is listening. If the Government is serious about giving us the NHS we deserve, it has to offer patients the choice of being looked after in their community, whatever stage of life they are at.
I’m also pleased that the Chancellor agrees that fines from crooked banks should continue to go to society. ACEVO articulated that principle in our ‘Free Society’ manifesto and we are pleased that the Chancellor agrees. We believe he should go further; the shame to our nation caused by these fraudulent acts should be washed away with good.
Charities give so much to the high street each and every day. The Government needs to support the work they do to make our public spaces that much more giving and caring. Charity leaders must play a central part of this review. You can be sure I will be robust in making this case as this debate unfolds. We will not allow changes in business rates to affect the charity shop. I’m a fan. They touch our reliefs at their peril!