Funding news

General Election 2010: Policy Round Up - 4 May 2010

The voluntary sector has featured more prominently in the 2010 general election than ever before, here are some final views.

Jay Kennedy, Head of Policy at the Directory of Social Change (DSC) has found that, despite high levels of voluntary sector content much of this has been vague, stating that: The Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat election manifestos all emphasise support for voluntary organisations. But specific proposals on issues such as Gift Aid and service delivery are hard to find.

He says the Tories’ ‘big society’ agenda presents the most radical vision for charities, but adds that many people believe it is an attempt to get charities to deliver services more cheaply than the state. and that the Conservatives’ philosophy puts a lot of trust in the voluntary sector being able to deliver when the state shrinks.

The most striking aspect of the parties’ policies is their similarity, he says, with action on the National Lottery being the most notable exception. The Tories are pledging to reduce the proportion of lottery money going to the Big Lottery Fund from 50 per cent to 40 per cent but say all of it will go to charities. At the moment, the BLF funds statutory as well as voluntary sector projects, which has led to allegations of political interference. All three parties claim their proposals for the lottery would result in more funding for the sector.

Kennedy says the Conservatives’ plans to redirect repayments from the Futurebuilders loan book to community grants is another clear dividing line, while the Liberal Democrats are the most specific about Gift Aid. He says the Tory pledge to publish details of all government spending greater than £25,000 would improve the transparency of cross-sector relations.

Kevin Curley, chief executive of local infrastructure group Navca, says both Labour and the Conservatives appear committed to supporting grants, but he is not convinced the Liberal Democrats share their enthusiasm. Labour have demonstrated their understanding of the importance of grants for local voluntary action through programmes like Grassroots Grants and the Hardship Fund, says Curley.
The Conservatives highlighted the importance of grants in their ‘big society’. But it’s not clear if the Liberal Democrats have taken this issue on board. It doesn’t appear to be a key part of their approach to the voluntary sector.

Anne Blackmore, head of campaigns and communication at the NCVO, says: All three parties are offering broadly similar things. They all talk about the importance of philanthropy and the lottery, but until we get more details it’s impossible to comment on what it could mean. We’re pleased that the sector is an issue for all three parties. There is a recognition that they have to have a relationship with us, which we might not have expected 15 years ago. But all three are being very cagey.

For further information, including a policy breakdown for each of the main parties, see the latest Third Sector article.