Tracey Crouch has been given Ministerial responsibility for civil society in the new government, with an expanded brief that includes responsibility for sport.
Infrastructure bodies have welcomed the new Minister, but reservations have been expressed about how Crouch will balance the demands of civil society and sport.
Tracey Crouch, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Sport and Civil Society, takes responsibility for gambling, horse racing, the Office for Civil Society, sport, The National Lottery and society lotteries.
Crouch was elected as the Conservative MP for Chatham and Aylesford in 2010, and was appointed Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Sport, Tourism and Heritage after the 2015 election.
She was a member of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee from 2012 to 2015 and a member of the Speaker’s Committee on the Electoral Commission, and of the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee from 2013 to 2015.
The Conservative MP has represented private and third sector bodies as a political consultant. Crouch replaces Rob Wilson in the civil society role, after he lost his Reading East seat in the general election.
Acevo chief executive Vicky Browning welcomed Crouch to the role. She said Crouch's time as minister for sport, heritage and tourism – dealing with issues such as "lottery funding and problematically white, male boards" – will stand her in good stead for the job.
“Her commitment to helping the vulnerable is also well known to her constituents, and her background in public affairs with the Pet Advisory Committee and experience of volunteering as a sports coach also shows her long-term interest in the sector,” Browning said.
The leader of the charity chief executives' body said the organisation will take a 'wait and see' approach to how the new brief balances civil society and sport.
“This change of brief gives the new minister an opportunity to reconsider the relationship between the Office for Civil Society and the sector, ensuring it is based on consultation and collaboration.”
Charities Aid Foundation chief executive John Low said the new Minister is well placed for the role through her strong relationships with a number of local charities and strong ties with charities through her time as Minister of Sport.
The sector has enjoyed constructive relationships with charities ministers in the past, he said, and Low looks forward to building on that with Crouch in the coming months. Tackling divisions across society, ensuring the Brexit deal delivers for charities, and ensuring the sector is able to continue providing vital support are top of the list of shared priorities, he said.
“However, the decision to merge the Minister for Civil Society role with another portfolio is concerning, coming as it does on the back on the announcement that No. 10’s special adviser on charities will be leaving her post,” Low said. “The political uncertainty, division and social challenges we face mean that the country needs an increased role for charities, not a reduced one. It will be vital that this does not result in the voice of charities and the needs of their beneficiaries being neglected.”
Navca chief executive Neil Cleeveley said sport and charity are such major parts of society that they deserve to each have a dedicated Minister.
“We should not forget how hard we fought to get our own minister or the reasons why we felt it was so important to have our own voice in government,” he said. “Tracey Crouch has a good reputation as sports minister but will she have enough time to give our sector the support it deserves?”
NCVO also raised concern over the sport and charity portfolios being allocated to one Minister, but said Crouch brings understanding and experience to the role in particular through her campaigning to get defibrillators into schools, sports centres and disused phone boxes.
Chief executive Sir Stuart Etherington said he has already spoken to the new Minister and was pleased she is approachable and keen to understand her brief.
‘However, I remain cautious about the size of a portfolio covering sport and civil society,” Etherington said. “We hope that the civil society portfolio will receive its rightful level of attention and profile, given its economic and social importance.”