The run-up to the general election can be an anxious time for charities – in part because the existing Lobbying Act restricts the way charities can campaign in the lead up to the election, but also in part because the fate of civil society under a new government remains unknown.
This year, political parties have mentioned a raft of policies that could potentially help or hinder the charity sector, some of which have been highly-anticipated, others that may seem somewhat underwhelming to a sector so desperately in need of greater funding.
Almost all parties have committed to dedicating 0.7% of GDP to international aid, while another area of focus for many parties has been the commitment to give local councils more power.
So what’s in the manifestos for charities? Charity Times provides a round-up:
Boldly, the Labour party has pledged to repeal the Lobbying Act – a move that is likely to receive sector-wide praise. The Lobbying Act has been extremely controversial since its introduction, and was blamed for silencing charities in the last (2017 general election).
“We will free the voices of civil society by repealing the Lobbying Act 2014 and overhauling the rules that govern corporate lobbying. We will introduce a lobbying register covering both in-house lobbyists and think tanks, and extending to contacts made with all senior government employees, not just ministers.”
The party has also pledged to close any tax loopholes enjoyed by private schools. Many private schools are charitable organisations, but the party said this particular part of the education sector will be subject to regular independent audits to ensure all private schools pay their taxes in full.
Meanwhile, Labour has also claimed it will bring back greater control for local authorities, which would relieve some pressure from the charities that have taken on council services in recent years. However, the party doesn’t outline how charities would be affected, or indeed which services would be given over to the council.
“We will act to bring services – from bin collections to management of local leisure centres – back in-house within the next Parliament, improving service quality, saving money and ensuring the people who deliver vital local services are treated decently,” it said.
The party has also promised to "reset its relationships with countries in the Global South based on principles of redistribution and equality, not outdated notions of charity". It’s also pledged to commit to a standalone Department for International Development (DfID), with a ring-fenced aid budget of at least 0.7% of GDP.
“We will introduce the reduction of inequality as a goal for all aid spending alongside existing poverty reduction and gender equality goals.”
The Conservatives' key benefit for charities is the pledge to drive £500 million towards disadvantaged people using the UK Shared Prosperity Fund. Like Labour, the party also commits to ensuring local councils deliver more services.
The party has said museums, libraries, cinemas and other cultural infrastructure will receive funding worth £250 million as part of what it claims is the “largest cultural capital programme in a century”.
Proposals include a Community Ownership Fund, which would create £150 million for communities to run civic organisations themselves. It claims £500 million would be made available to new youth clubs and to the maintenance of existing international aid spending.
The Conservative manifesto explains that the funding towards international aid will focus on two key areas: terrorism and climate change. “We will proudly maintain our commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of GNI on development, and do more to help countries receiving aid become self-sufficient,” it said.
“We have doubled International Climate Finance. And we will use our position hosting the UN Climate Change Summit in Glasgow in 2020 to ask our global partners to match our ambition”.
Like both the Conservatives and Labour, the Lib Dems have pledged to provide more international aid and more power to local authorities.
The Lib Dems claim to be the only party dedicated to “renewing international liberalism in Britain” and ensuring “the UK plays an active role in building a better world". It pledges to use its international spend to reduce poverty, defend human rights, protect the environment and prevent conflict worldwide.
Furthermore, the party has pledged to increase council funding and protect funding for sports and the arts through the National Lottery. The party has also suggested forcing all organisations to report “all instances of documented abuse overseas" – a move that would be particularly noteworthy following the Oxfam safeguarding crisis in 2018.
The Green Party
Much like Labour, the Green Party has pledged to change the status of private schools, removing charitable status and charging full VAT on all school fees. “The private school sector will be subject to regular independent audits,
to ensure private schools improve accessibility and pay their taxes in full,” its manifesto said.
Unsurprisingly, the party has also announced a focus on climate change, pledging a Green New Deal, which would include divestment from any environmentally harmful industries.
Like other parties, the Greens have committed to reversing cuts to local councils, providing more power to local communities. It is has also pledged to increase international aid spending to 1% of GDP.
The Brexit Party
While the Brexit Party doesn’t have a wide range of policies likely to effect the charity sector, it does pledge to release dormant funds to civil society, but does not provide details on which organisations are likely to benefit from this move.
Scottish National Party
The SNP manifesto is fairly quiet on issues affecting the charity sector, however it has promised £270 million worth of investment in Scotland’s cultural sector and a rise in council funding.