Autumn Budget 2021: Sector left 'disappointed and underwhelmed'

The charity sector has been left feeling ‘underwhelmed’ and ‘disappointed’ by announcements made in today’s Autumn Budget.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak today revealed the government’s latest spending plan, which includes some funding for the arts and youth sector, levelling up bids and a pledge to return to the 0.7% foreign aid spending commitment.

But charity leaders have argued the announcements made are not enough to help the sector survive the devastating impacts of the pandemic.

Levelling up

‘Levelling up’ was announced as a key priority for the Chancellor, who has allocated £1.7bn to 100 areas across the UK. Sunak said the money will be “to invest in the infrastructure of everyday life “ with £150m in Scotland, £110m in Wales, and £50m in Northern Ireland.

However, CAF chief executive, Neil Heslop said levelling up “must address more than economic imbalances”.

“Whilst the focus on local infrastructure is understandable, social infrastructure is important for a successful recovery. We urge the government to collaborate to give charities a greater voice, which will be key to addressing the health and social inequalities seen across the country.”

International aid

Heslop added that the Chancellor’s pledge to return to the 0.7% foreign aid spending commitment by the end of this Parliament “will not alleviate the drastic shortfalls facing charities working across the world today”.

“We continue to encourage the government to work with development charities to minimise the effect of the cuts in the interim period,” he said.

Plan International chief executive, Rose Caldwell agreed, adding: “Returning to the 0.7 aid commitment in 2024-25 simply isn’t good enough, and there is no guarantee it will happen.

“It’s welcome news that the UK economy is recovering, but the world’s women and girls need our full support now, not in three years’ time. By then, cuts to overseas aid will have done untold damage.

Universal credit

Sunak’s final announcement was the lowering of the Universal Credit taper by 8% from 63p to 55p, claiming it was a tax cut for 1.9 million of the lowest earning working families. It will link with the increase in the national minimum wage was also announced in the preceding days of the budget, with over 25s earning £9.50 an hour from April 2022.

However, Work Rights Centre, Dr Dora-Olivia Vicol said the Chancellor’s plans “don’t go far enough to help struggling families and Universal Credit claimants”.

“[The budget] has left charities unconvinced of the government’s commitment to helping vulnerable people. While measures to invest in skills and raise the minimum wage were welcomed, the cost of living crisis cast a considerable shadow, particularly for workers who are un- or underemployed.”

Tax relief for museums and galleries

Despite this, there was generally positive feedback for a tax relief for museum and galleries, which has been extended by two years until March 2024.

Charity Tax Group welcomed the announcement, calling for the government to make it permanent.

UK Theatre added: “This initiative will support producers to keep costs down, secure greater investment and develop bold new content to drive the recovery of the UK’s world-leading theatre sector”.

You can read more about the budget announcements and what they mean for charities here.

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