Wednesday 25 November 2015

What isn't George telling us?

So now we have it. The Comprehensive Spending Review.

What concerns us more than what we were told today is what we weren't. The Chancellor brushed over cuts to budgets, focusing on restrictions on Whitehall budgets, which will fall by £1.9 billion. But there are cuts to come, that is beyond doubt. We saw the start of this with £22 billion of cuts announced across the Department of Health, despite increased spending on the NHS. The Department of Transport will see it’s budget fall by 37%, as capital expenditure rises by 50%. DEFRA's budget falls by 15%, as £2 billion more is spent on flood defenses. An already bare government is further retreating as all but the most essential funding is cut. After a Comprehensive Spending Review, we still know less than we would like.

Big Lottery Fund
There have been some suggestions recently that the Big Lottery Fund would see its funding cut by £320 million. ACEVO was robust in its response; working with the NCVO we were clear that such a blow would be disastrous for charities across England. We are encouraged to see that the Chancellor has heeded our advice, and protected the Big Lottery Fund, and the work it does. Further than this, we welcome the news that the revenue from the 'Tampon Tax' will be directed to charities which work in women's health and services.

A Glimmer?
There are positive signs within this statement. We welcome an increase in spending on mental health of £600 million. The NHS will welcome a £6 billion cash boost. But, we’ll be ever monitoring the effect of budgetary cuts to social care and local community services. We said this after the Summer Budget and as the 'care crisis' remains unabated - the social care precept announced today will not be nearly enough to sustain the sector - we must  continue to speak up.

Public Services Constitution
I'm clear that better public services does not need to mean more Government spending. A key recommendation of our recently published report "Remaking the State" (launched at our great annual conference last week!) calls for a Public Services Constitution to enshrine in law the right of people to receive the services they deserve. Our report sets out a way to marry fiscal prudence with the better delivery of public services.

We know third sector organisations deliver cost effective services that are community focused. What would be a disaster in social care is if councils spend the amount they have been given themselves - rather than through empowering the third sector to deliver.

Overall, what thought has been given to the consequences of these major cuts on charities and the millions they serve? There was no evidence of that in this statement. Charities provide the essential cohesion that our society needs, particularly now. They are the glue that holds communities together. It’s our civil society that is so admired around the world and which makes Britain great.

And in particular, charities are a safety net which make a crucial difference to people’s lives. That is why any cuts made that affect charities' ability to deliver services are so damaging. There is no doubt these cuts will undermine charities.

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