After a fairly quiet August, September felt like a very bumpy roller coaster ride. So much happened in such a short period of time! Here’s a round-up of policy news from around the sector:
Charities reacted to the new Prime Minister
Once Liz Truss was announced Prime Minister, charities across the UK didn’t hesitate to make it clear what they expected from the new government. Although some charities emphasised the need for urgent climate action and Levelling Up, the main message to the PM regarded the cost-of-living crisis and the need for more targeted support. Here’s how Jay Kennedy, our Director of Policy and Research, reacted to the news:
“For months, charities serving every kind of beneficiary and constituency have been warning of the dire consequences of inflation and skyrocketing energy costs for millions of people across the country…Liz Truss and her incoming cabinet need to take account of charities’ deep expertise on questions of poverty and social welfare, and make sure they have genuine input into the policy solutions.”
New Ministers in DCMS
Michelle Donelan is now the new digital, culture, media and sport (DCMS) secretary. DCMS is the government department with policy responsibility for civil society and the charity sector. Before this post, she briefly served as education secretary. Although we don’t know much about her position on the charity sector, what we do know is that she once served as a trustee and patron of a charity and has previously spoken out about the importance of the voluntary sector.
After many weeks, the government finally announced that Lord Kamall would hold the civil society portfolio, taking over from Nigel Huddleston MP. Again, we don’t know much about him or his views on charities, except that he used to work for the Institute for Economic Affairs, a free-market think-tank that is highly influential in the new government.
Statement to Government – collective action by the sector!
At the start of the month, DSC united with other sector infrastructure bodies across the UK under the banner of the Civil Society Group (CSG), a collection of 80 membership and representative bodies from across the charity sector and civil society. In a public statement, we urged the government to channel immediate financial support to those who need it most, and for charities to be included in any plans to help businesses. See the Joint Statement here.
Government support to relieve soaring energy bills
Shortly after becoming PM, Liz Truss announced that the government would bring in an energy price guarantee, meaning the average household would pay no more than £2,500 a year – still double on average what bills would have been last year.
Later in the month the government announced their new Energy Bill Relief Scheme for businesses, which includes voluntary organisations, charities and the public sector. This scheme operates for the next six months and provides a ceiling on the prices that energy companies can charge for gas and electricity, which have been significantly inflated by global energy prices. This is good news for the charity sector and shows what we can do when we all work together.
Civil Society Group writes to Kwasi Kwarteng
Towards the end of September, the Civil Society Group also wrote to the new Chancellor, Kwasi Kwarteng MP, urging him to take a more targeted stance on the cost-of-living crisis ahead of his mini budget.
The letter, signed by the CEOs of 42 representative organisations, welcomes the energy price guarantee for households but makes clear that despite these policies the government is still failing to provide robust support for low-income households, disabled people and those from marginalised groups. Find out more here.
Kwasi Kwarteng’s Mini Budget
On Friday 23 September the new Chancellor led his first ‘fiscal event’. What was announced?
- Cut in the basic rate of income tax from 19% to 20% starting April 2023 – the government will cover any subsequent shortfall in Gift Aid claims for four years
- Abolishing the top rate of tax – those earning more than £150,000 will see a 5% tax cut
- 1.25% National Insurance rise to be reversed from November
- Scrapped cap limiting bankers’ bonuses
- Scrapped planned rise of corporation tax from 19% to 25%
Prior to this, the new cabinet was being described as neo-Thatcherite, and this mini-budget announcement confirmed it. With a focus on tax cuts, deregulation, and ‘trickle-down economics’, the new cabinet’s agenda is becoming clearer – boost business and attract investment as the way to grow the economy.
The British Bill of Rights was scrapped
There was some very good news this month when after widespread campaigning from human rights groups, lawyers and even senior conservative MPs, Liz Truss scrapped the proposal for a British Bill of Rights.
Pioneered by Dominic Raab, the British Bill of Rights was set out to repeal and replace the Human Rights Act 1996 (HRA), leaving the UK courts free from the influence of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). However, campaigners had labelled the reforms a ‘rights removal bill’ and many saw no need to overturn the HRA – it seems like Truss’ cabinet feels the same way.