Charity leaders have hit out at the Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend the UK parliament, saying the move undermines democracy and limits the voice of the voluntary sector.
The joint public statement has been signed by 13 leaders of sector bodies and charities, including ACEVO chief executive Vicky Browning, Children England chief executive Kathy Evans and Charity Finance Group chief executive Caron Bradshaw.
The group says that Johnson’s decision to suspend parliament for five weeks on 10 September “risks eroding democratic accountability”.
It stresses that charities have a vital democratic role in UK society, which is being restricted by the proroguing of parliament.
The suspension could also mean that bills supported by the sector risk being scuppered as they will run out of parliamentary time to become law, says the statement.
Johnson’s decision has also been criticised by MPs for failing to give them enough time to effectively debate issues around Britain’s exit from the EU, which has been set for 31 October.
The joint statement, published by ACEVO, states: “Civil society organisations provide support, advice and services. However, another vital role for the social sector is to amplify the voices of the communities and causes we serve. People and issues that are too often ignored or unheard by those in positions of power. A thriving civil society is an indicator of a healthy democracy.
“For a number of years, civil society organisations have expressed concern that some politicians are seeking to restrict the democratic role of the social sector and that such restrictions demonstrate a shrinking of civic space. The prime minister’s decision to suspend parliament for more than four weeks in the lead up to one of the most important national decisions in recent history shrinks the democratic and civic space even further.
“And, in addition proroguing parliament means risking ending the passage of a number of bills that could deliver important change for the people and causes that civil society works on behalf of.
“As leaders of civil society organisations, we are concerned that proroguing parliament to push through a divisive policy risks eroding democratic accountability now and after 31 October.”
Also signing the statement are: Craig Bennett, chief executive, Friends of the Earth (England, Wales and Northern Ireland); James Fitzpatrick, director, Joseph Levy Foundation; Tony Armstrong, chief executive, Locality; Jane Ide, chief executive, NAVCA; Anna Feuchtwang, chief executive, National Children’s Bureau.
Keith Tyrell, director, PAN UK; Jo Hickman, director, Public Law Project; Juliet Prager, deputy recording clerk, Quakers in Britain; Sue Tibballs, chief executive, Sheila McKechnie Foundation and Rita Chadha, chief executive, Small Charities Coalition have also signed the statement.