Policy & Politics News
Charity Insight Contributor
Published 24 March 2011

The measures aimed at helping the wider charitable community have been well

covered in the sector trade press. But what impact is the budget likely to have on service users and what does this mean for charities?

General welfare
Charities campaigning for the Robin Hood Tax were quick to point out that the increase in the bank levy combined with a reduction in corporation tax did little to provide a fairer deal for tax payers.

"George Osborne's announcement that he will take from the banks with one hand whilst giving back with the other means they are still not paying their fair share" said Max Lawson, Robin Hood Tax campaign spokesperson. "Whilst we face rising costs of living and cuts in vital services a Robin Hood Tax is a real, popular and practical alternative that could ease the burden on those of us who aren't given massive bonuses. Today's Budget is another missed opportunity to get a fair deal for the majority of taxpayers."

While Oxfam's Director of Campaigns & Policy, Phil Bloomer, added: "More and more poor people in this country are being forced to choose between feeding their families and paying their bills as food prices push up the cost of living and cuts in services and welfare bite.

"If we really were all in this together, the Chancellor would be working to defend our welfare system and ensure that everyone contributes their fair share to protecting public services which are particularly important to the poorest."

Young people
Measures aimed at helping young people into work featured prominently in the Chancellor's speech and included the development of new university technical colleges, 80,000 work experience placements and 40,000 extra apprenticeships for young unemployed people. The news received a mixed response from the Social Enterprise Coalition.

"We welcome some of the measures to support youth employment including the increase in workplace-based training funding for 40,000 apprenticeships - something the sector has long argued for," said Ceri Jones, Head of Policy at the Coalition. "But we fear that while the work experience programme could have some impact, it's unlikely to be as successful as the Future Jobs Fund at supporting disadvantaged young people, particularly when considered alongside cuts to the Education Maintenance Allowance.

Older people
Charities which support older people reacted angrily to the news that the Winter Fuel Payment was to be cut. People aged over 80 years old face a reduction of as much as £100.

"It was disingenuous of the chancellor not to mention this reduction in his speech," said Simon Bottery, Director of Policy at Independent Age. "While the increased winter fuel payment was introduced as a temporary measure, the circumstances facing pensioners two years ago, haven't changed - and in fact are now, arguably, worse."

Michelle Mitchell, Charity Director at Age UK, said: "Latest data from Age UK's Silver RPI measure shows that those over 75, between last September and January spent an average of 7.1 per cent of their income on fuel compared to 4 per cent in the general population."

Equal rights
As part of its plans to reduce "the disproportionate cost of business regulations", George Osborne said dual discrimation rules will not be brought forward.

The rules, which were first proposed in 2009, would be inserted into the Equality Bill and would enable people to make a claim if they were directly discriminated against because of a combination of two characteristics, such as race and sex. Currently, people may only bring separate discrimination claims related to one characteristic.

Groups fighting for equal rights said they were disappointed with the news.

"This Budget won't help the government to deliver on its commitment to support disabled people. It is undermining the Equality Act by delaying the dual discrimination clauses. This shows questionable support of disabled people in employment and in everyday life, "said Richard Hawkes, chief executive of disability charity Scope.

The environment
The Green Investment Bank, which the government hopes will help the UK to move towards a low-carbon economy was a step in the right direction but not enough to satisfy the demands of environmental groups. The bank will receive initial funding of £3bn and should be up and running by 2012-13 - a year earlier than originally anticipated. However, it will not have borrowing capabilities until 2015-16.

Friends of the Earth's executive director, Andy Atkins said: "The Green Investment Bank should have been a vehicle to drive the UK's economic recovery, but by delaying the bank's borrowing powers the Treasury has sneaked round the back of the motor and siphoned off the fuel - just as the rest of Government is firing up the ignition."

Meanwhile environmental groups and organisations representing local communities expressed their dismay at changes to planning laws which aim to make it easier and quicker for planning applications to be approved.

"The Government's proposed reforms to land use planning are largely misguided and unnecessary," said Tony Burton, chief executive of Civic Voice. "Sensible businesses know they need an effective and well-resourced planning system to provide the certainty for investment. Deregulation has trumped localism and communities risk being alienated by development interests initiating their own neighbourhood plans and losing any say over the conversion of offices to new housing."

The Campaign to Protect Rural England labelled the Budget as: "a massive threat to the environment", saying that the triple whammy of scrapping national brownfield targets, introducing a default yes to development, and pursuing half-baked proposals for land auctions could be devastating to treasured countryside.

Neil Sinden, CPRE's Director of Policy, said: "The planning system exists to prevent unsustainable, unwanted and environmentally damaging development. Today's Budget is likely to undermine its ability to do this."

The full Budget report can be read here

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