Policy, Policy, campaigns & research

March Policy Update

Here's a roundup of news from around the charity sector.

We’re now at the end of March and the next general election is still looming somewhere in the distance. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has ruled out a 2 May election, but who knows what’s around the corner!  

In this month’s policy update, find out more about the Spring Budget, when the next general election could be, Bond’s manifesto, a new report by the Charity Commission and the latest VSCE Barometer results. Take a look: 

Spring Budget recap 

Earlier this month, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt MP delivered the Spring Budget for 2024, in what could be the last fiscal event before the general election. With an election on the horizon, and due to take place at any point in the year, this budget was pivotal in the Conservative government’s plan to close the gap on Labour.  

Here are some of the Chancellor’s new key policies that would impact charity workers and their beneficiaries: 

  • The VAT registration threshold will increase from £85,000 to £90,000 
  • £5 million new investment in the Platinum Jubilee Village Halls Fund 
  • Funding for community cultural projects and the National Theatre 
  • £1 billion of new tax reliefs for the cultural sector 
  • Household Support Fund has been extended for another 6 months 
  • £90 administration fee for ‘Debt Relief Orders’ has been removed 
  • £45 million to support medical charities research on dementia, cancer and epilepsy 
  • 8% cut to National Insurance 

Read Jay Kennedy’s full analysis of the Spring Budget here. 

When is the next general election? 

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak can technically call an election any time between now and 17 December 2024. This means that the latest date for the next general election is 28 January. Whilst speaking to ITV, Sunak confirmed that there will not be an election on the 2 May, however, he could technically still call it for the end of May. 

Sunak will base his decision to call an election on how confident he is that the Conservatives will win again. With polls currently swaying heavily towards Labour (43.8% to 23.7%), it’s likely Sunak will do whatever he can to narrow the gap.  

There are three likely scenarios for when he will hold an election: 

  1. A summer 2024 election – most likely before the school holidays 
  2. An autumn 2024 election, held in October or November 2024 
  3. A late election held in January 2025 

On 4 January, Sunak hinted that his “working assumption is we’ll have a general election in the second half of this year”, so it seems he’ll go with an autumn election, but maybe he’s trying to catch his opponents off guard? 

Find out more here. 

Bond releases new manifesto urging the next government to act on the climate crisis and global poverty 

The membership organisation representing the UK’s international development sector, Bond, has just released a manifesto urging the next UK government to take steps to tackle the climate crisis and global system failures that result in extreme poverty.  

A Global System for People and the Planet’was built in collaboration with 380 organisations in the international development sector and reflects the challenges that they have been facing. Bond will now use this manifesto to influence policy and politicians throughout the election period and after. 

It outlines seven key asks, including:  

  1. Act as a responsible and ambitious development partner 
  2. Create an equitable and sustainable international financial system that works for people, nature and the climate 
  3. Recommit to the Sustainable Development Goals and ‘leaving no one behind’ 
  4. Do our fair share to tackle the global climate and biodiversity crisis 
  5. Develop a new approach to UK trade and private sector investments 
  6. Promoting stability, security and effective crisis responses  
  7. Protect and promote rights, freedoms and civic spaces 

Read the full manifesto here. 

Nearly half of charities are experiencing banking issues 

New data from the Charity Commission has revealed that 42% of charity trustees surveyed reported poor services from their banks in the last 12 months.  

The annual sector survey unveiled that charities are experiencing difficulties opening new bank accounts, complying with identity requirements and updating their charity’s contact details. 

Shocked at these figures, Helen Stephenson, CEO at the Charity Commission, hopes that these new figures will send “a message to the CEOs of high street banks that change is needed now.” 

The Charity Commission sent an open letter back in November to all UK high street banks urging them to better the standards charities were receiving.  

The Civil Society Group (CSG) is currently working towards improving bank account services for charities and they want to know some of the challenges you’ve been facing. Help CSG get a clearer picture of what’s going on, so they can advocate on your behalf to the respective charity regulators, government, and the banking sector, by telling them your experience of banks. Fill in the survey here. 

Read the latest findings from the Charity Commission here. 

Latest Barometer survey shows local council crisis hitting charities 

The latest edition of the VCSE Barometer survey, which tracks key indicators of organisational resilience in the charity sector, includes data on charities’ relationships with local government. Many local governments are increasingly in serious financial difficulty and this is having knock-on effects in funding cuts and services being scaled back or withdrawn.  

The survey concludes that “almost three in 10 (28%) charities that work with local authorities expect their funding from local councils to fall in the next twelve months”, and that “the impacts from local authority cuts to physical assets and maintenance of their estate will also cascade down to charities”. 

Read the full report, ‘Tethered Fortunes’, here.