Spring Budget 2017: Key points for funders
It may not come as a surprise that Chancellor Phillip Hammond’s Budget did not contain a great deal specifically addressing foundations, not least because there was little that mentioned the voluntary sector as a whole. This is despite ACF and other umbrella bodies having written to the Chancellor with a number of simple ways in which the Budget could support social action. Nonetheless, the impact of shifts in the funding landscape and changes affecting several areas of foundations’ work are worth considering.
A further £2 billion has been pledged for social care over the next three years. It comes alongside a review of social care funding which is expected later in the year. While this does not plug the hole in social care funding caused by successive cuts, it does alleviate pressure faced by some parts of the sector and on healthcare services, and the review could provide an opportunity for funders to share their vision and priorities.
Women and girls
There are also extra funds designated for women and girls. The Chancellor announced £20 million to support women, in particular through tackling domestic abuse, an additional £12 million from the tampon tax, and £5 million for a project to celebrate the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage. Funders active in this area are likely to welcome the funding boost from Government.
This good news was, however, greeted by commentators within the charity sector calling for the Government to distribute such funds transparently and accountably, in line with its own Government Grants Minimum Standards released in 2016.
There is more funding lined up for education too. The Chancellor announced £300 million to support PhD places and fellowships in science, technology, engineering and maths, which points to some of the fears that Brexit might see the UK losing its place as a global centre of excellence for scientific research.
The Chancellor also allocated the proceeds of the ‘sugar tax’ to the Department for Education and, away from funding, there was an emphasis on skills with measures outlined for technical qualifications and training - again perhaps to meet Brexit fears that reduced immigration will leave skills gaps in the labour market.
Two issues in the Budget may interest foundations which focus on specific geographical areas. The Chancellor outlined further devolution to London, especially on issues such as congestion and criminal justice.
He also announced that local councils are set to be given powers to distribute £300 million in discretionary relief to the hardest hit businesses, which can include charities – this is welcome but falls short of the specific measures for charities that sector umbrella bodies called for in our joint letter.
The charity sector has become accustomed to its omission from the Budget. However the Prime Minister’s appearance at the Charity Commission’s annual public meeting in January did have some observers hoping that charities might feature more prominently. Others have pointed out that the limited reference to the sector is far preferable to any unwanted or unforeseen changes.
Nonetheless, 2017 presents us with a second Budget in November, providing another opportunity for the charity sector to engage with the Government. ACF will continue to work alongside other umbrella bodies in ensuring that the needs of foundations are well represented in a collective voice of the sector on issues facing charities, but also facing society as we move into an uncertain future.
Policy and Communications Officer, ACF
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