Julian Huppert writes … We all need to do our bit to Back Britain’s Charities

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Since becoming an MP three years ago I’ve developed a greater understanding of the work that charities do, and a true recognition of the important role they play in creating and strengthening communities. In Cambridge, for example, charities such as the Citizens Advice Bureau and the Samaritans are there to offer support when people have nowhere else to turn, and many provide niche services to people who would otherwise slip through the net.

In return they are supported by those who care passionately about a cause, and who give their time and money because they feel a responsibility to help others and a desire to make a difference. Charities represent the very best of Britain, and we should be extremely proud that we are one of the most charitable nations in the world.

However, there are growing concerns about the threats facing charities. Research conducted by the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) published last year found that donations to charity fell by 20% between 2010/11 and 2011/12. At the same time there have been reductions in grants being given to charities from local authorities, and an increased demand for the services that charities provide. In short, charities are struggling to do more with less.

So bleak is the picture that many charities believe that they are at risk of closure, and some are already being forced to cut back on the services that they provide. A survey in December 2012 discovered that one in six charities fear being forced to close in the next year, a quarter of charities are now providing fewer services, and almost half of charities have been forced to dip into their reserves to fund day-to-day activity.

To help raise awareness of the challenges facing charities CAF has launched the Back Britain’s Charities campaign, and I’m delighted to add my support.

The campaign is promoting a number of practical measures, which I believe can make a real difference to the future of charities and – most importantly – their beneficiaries. On giving mechanisms such as Gift Aid and Payroll Giving – two areas where the Government is investigating reform – it is vital that we act to make sure that donations go as far as possible. I was extremely concerned to see that the proportion of donations benefitting from Gift Aid has fallen for the first time, and it is crucial that the Government makes Gift Aid declarations as simple as possible to ensure that we can reverse this decline.

In addition, the campaign is asking local authorities not to cut funding to charities disproportionately, something that Don Foster has been calling for. Of course local authorities have a number of difficult decisions to make as they set budgets for the financial year ahead, but is it important that charities are not forced to bear an excessive burden of spending reductions.

It’s amazing to think that there are over 160,000 charities across Britain, and it is the smaller localised ones who provide specialist services that are suffering the most. If these close there is a real danger that there will be no-one there to pick up the slack, and we have a duty to creating a charitable sector that is able to flourish and help us to build a stronger, fairer Britain.

* Julian Huppert was the Liberal Democrat MP for Cambridge from 2010-15

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8 Comments

  • Yes Those who are lucky enough to have spare funds (ie millionaires with tax cut) the majority of us in the real world(apposed to Westminster and the millionaire bubbles) are having it tough tax rises price rises benefit cuts legal aid cut uni fee’s and mad rates interest when you lucky enough to get a loan. If I was to say the one thing to help is Reduce taxes on petrol is most effective stimulus and free up money some may then go to charity

  • Lorna Dupre 9th Apr '13 - 11:58am

    Is a fall in gift aid a corollary of more people being taken out of tax? You can’t gift-aid if you’re not a taxpayer.

  • It might just be that people are more cautious about how money they give is spent. I like ideas such as the DRC as it offers economies of scale, but unfortunately some of those which get a share of cash generated are amongst those I personally would never support (eg sectarian interests).

  • Looks like the Charities were right when they warned the coalition about changes to charity tax relief’s could cause a 20% reduction in donations (see https://www.libdemvoice.org/opinion-what-do-charity-tax-and-higher-rate-pension-relief-have-in-common-28077.html Aside: Unfortunately Henry Stuart has removed the piece on his website which contained some detailed financial data.)

    It would seem that the easiest, simplest and fastest way is for the government to do as per Labour and allow all UK citizens who have dealings with HMRC to claim donation tax relief. The reduction the coalition made to the additional relief available to higher rate tax payers, should more than cover the cost, particularly as the original arrangements (set up by New Labour) were largely revenue neutral. Obviously, this would need to be dressed up, as politicians wouldn’t want to be seen to either doing a U-turn or admitting they were wrong…

  • Charities should not receive more than 10% of it’s income from the from the State . Once a charity requires money from the state to survive, it is an appendage of the state and therefore beholden to the politicians and state employees who supply it with funds. It is difficult to criticise the hand that feeds one

  • Agree with other Terry, above. I used to give much more than I do now. Your government has cut my real family income by 10%, and stagnated the economy. What did you expect?

  • Ed Shepherd 9th Apr '13 - 9:29pm

    People’s incomes are reducing and people’s jobs are insecure. It’s not surprising that less is being donated to charity.

  • Christine Headley 10th Apr '13 - 12:15pm

    I’m in the same situation as Lorna Dupre. I have been wondering what impact the loss of gift aid for people with incomes of less than £ 10k will be. (I can’t remember this year’s limit – I know I will be below it!)

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