Policy briefing 28 March 2011
(15 March – 28 March 2011)
The announcement of Budget 2011 has dominated the policy world for the past couple of weeks. Given the context of high unemployment, rising inflation, wavering GDP, and mounting public concern over spending cuts, there was significant pressure on the Chancellor to deliver a robust framework for economic growth and sustainable employment.
Overall the budget proved far less controversial than the previous year, when more severe reforms to departmental spending and welfare expenditure were laid out. Various measures were of benefit to the voluntary sector, including long-awaited reforms to Gift Aid and a more generous system of inheritance tax. In skills terms, apprenticeships continued to gain popularity, with a planned increase of 50,000 places to help absorb some of the high levels of youth unemployment. The relatively sanguine nature of this year’s budget will be put into stark perspective on 1st April, however, as various service contracts and government programmes come to an end. A more detailed analysis of the budget is available here.
The Office for Civil Society announced changes to its Strategic Partners Programme for 2011-2014. The partners, who are responsible for linking the broader sector with Government, will be drastically reduced in number from 43 to just 9. The successful organisations will receive £8.2m over the next three years, with the specific amount per organisation decreasing by 25% in each year until it is finally phased out in 2013/14.
Several people have already registered concern about the omission of equalities organisations from the new programme (despite the publication of an equality impact assessment on how it will protect certain social characteristics).
Skills and workforce
The final report of Will Hutton’s Independent Review into Fair Pay in the Public Sector has been published. It makes a series of recommendations, including that public managers’ pay be linked to performance and that pay multiples (the ratio between the highest pay and median pay in an organisation) should become the norm across all sectors.
The Government has promised to conduct a robust evaluation of the Future Jobs Fund to be published in Spring 2011. This will involve qualitative analysis of customers’ experiences of the Fund and an assessment of the programme’s impact on the length of time customers spent in employment and benefit. Despite falling behind its initial target, the £1bn scheme created a significant number of temporary jobs for unemployed young people.
A total of £6,507m will be distributed to 130 universities and higher education colleges, and 124 directly-funded further education colleges for the academic year 2011-12. This represents a reduction of over 12% on the previous year’s allocation and aims to create a smooth transition to a more student-led funding system in 2012-13.
Funding for an additional 12 Technical Academies/University Technical Colleges was announced in this year’s Budget. The academies will be sponsored by local businesses and higher education institutions, who will provide support and work placements for 14-19 year-old students.
The Department for Business Innovation & Skills have published a guide to government-funded business support available from April 2011. This contains information on 13 publicly-funded products and services available for businesses (down from a previous 32).
A parliamentary inquiry is being launched into technical skills. The review will be led by the Skills Commission and will feature the contributions of both major employers and leading figures from further education. A final report is due to be published in July 2011.
Former Skills Funding Agency director David Hughes will become the new Chief Executive of the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE) following the retirement of Professor Alan Tuckett this summer.
Lifelong Learning UK have undertaken a review of qualifications for teaching and learning professionals. The revised qualifications will have a phased introduction, with any changes reflecting policy reforms that occur over the coming year.
Greater detail has been given to the Coalition’s proposals on “Service Academies” for the unemployed. The Academies, which will be targeted at those welfare recipients closest to the labour market, will be established in sectors with high volumes of entry-level jobs and will last for a maximum of six weeks, including accredited provision.
The Clore Social Leadership Programme is now looking for its third cohort of Fellows. Each Fellow benefits from a personalised programme which provides opportunities for development, and is tailored to individual need. Applicants must be working in or closely with the wider social sector and demonstrated leadership in the past.
A Plan for Growth was published by BIS and HM Treasury to accompany the 2011 Budget. The 131-page plan compiles the Government’s proposals on enterprise and investment. The ambitions of the plan are fourfold: “to create the most competitive tax system in the G20”; “to make the UK one of the best places in Europe to start, finance and grow a business”; “to encourage investment and exports as a route to a more balanced economy”; and
“to create a more educated workforce that is the most flexible in Europe”.
A series of regulatory reforms for businesses have been announced. This includes a public audit of statutory legislation and a three-year exemption from regulation for businesses with less than ten employees. This regulatory exemption will cover rights to request flexible working for parents, a lightening of auditory requirements, and a cessation of the right for employees to request time off to train.
The Department for Business Innovation and Skills have launched a consultation on how to improve the UK’s competition regime, including proposed reforms relating to competition law and mergers which will have an impact upon charities. The consultation runs until 13 June 2011.
A total of 21 “Enterprise Zones” are to be created across the country. These will be subject to a 100% business rate discount up to £275,000; allow business rates growth to be retained for a period of at least 25 years; and enable a radically simplified planning approach. The first eleven of these have already been declared and a bidding process will be launched in the summer for interested Local Enterprise Partnerships to establish ten more zones.
A new framework for health and safety regulation has been published which places a greater burden upon high-risk workplaces and “rogue employers”. The measures are intended to cut the level of inspections by at least a third and free up businesses to deliver economic growth.
Major reforms to housing and planning were announced in the Budget. This includes a new presumption to be introduced to the planning system in favour of development, a £250m “FirstyBuy” equity scheme to help people onto the housing ladder, and the reduction of all existing planning policy into one single document.
A review of council funding has been launched by the Department for Communities and Local Government. This includes proposals to allow councils to hold onto their business rates and reduce their dependence on central grants, creating greater incentives towards economic growth. The review is due to report back in July 2011.
The Environment Agency will receive £2m of additional funding to provide practical advice for businesses, organisations and communities to adapt to the effects of climate change. Funding will focus on key sectors such as health, water, transport, engineering and finance and will be delivered in partnership with the relevant trade or professional bodies and regulators in each sector.
An additional £1m will be available from the Home Office for victims of crime and anti-social behavior. The funding will be used in partnership with Victim Support to set up a network of advocates to hear from victims about their experiences, explore access to local support services, ensure crime and policing strategies reflect victims’ needs, and advise publicly-elected Police Crime Commissioners on local issues and victims’ needs from 2012.
A new Foster Carers’ Charter has been published by the Department for Education. The charter sets out the principles upon which foster carers should be treated, including what to expect from their fostering service and local authority, and information for local authorities on the recruitment and retention of foster carers. The Charter is also supported by new slimmed-down fostering regulations and guidance.
A Select Committee report on the arts has unearthed substantial fears over future funding, especially for small organisations. The report explores the impact of cuts to the Arts Council’s budget and the tendency for local authorities to undervalue the contribution of the arts, both of which will force many arts organisations to close. It also suggests that “it is unlikely that the UK will ever have a culture of philanthropy and private investment in the arts that resembles that of America”
The voluntary sector
The 2011 Budget contained several significant reforms to Gift Aid. These will enable charities to claim Gift Aid on donations of £10 without paperwork (up to £5,000); create an online claim system for tax relief by 2013; and introduce an increase in benefit limits from £500 to £2,500. The transitional relief on Gift Aid is set to be abolished, however.
The successful bidders for the Office for Civil Society’s Strategic Partners Programme are as follows: ACEVO/Euclid Network/New Philanthropy Capital (£415,000); the Community Foundation Network/Association of Charitable Foundations (£330,000); Institute of Fundraising (£275,000); Locality (£496,570); NAVCA (£345,070); NCVO (£500,000); Social Entrepreneurship Partnership (£315,000); Social Enterprise Coalition/Co-operatives UK (£499,199); and Volunteering England (£500,000).
The Transition Fund for voluntary organisations dependent on income for public service delivery will be topped up with an additional £7m. This additional funding will only be allocated to previous applicants. A total of 183 organisations have also been informed that they will receive £15m in the latest phase of the fund.
The Community Development Foundation (CDF), the organisation responsible for funding and evaluation community-based programmes, will be forced to reduce its workforce by half as it loses £1.5m in grant funding in the transition from being a public body to charity status.
Health charity, the Welcome Trust, have submitted a £1bn bid to purchase the freehold for the Olympics Park site following the 2012 games. If successful, this would constitute a return on the £675m owed towards the National Lottery for funding the games.
Prince William and Kate Middleton have requested that anyone wishing to send them a wedding gift consider doing so in the form of a donation to their newly-established fund. The fund covers a total of 26 charities operating across a range of areas, most of which are not household names.
ACEVO, NCVO and NAVCA have penned a letter to the chief executives of every local council in England urging them to ensure that public spending cuts do not jeopardise relationships with voluntary organisations. The letter’s text reminds them of the “reasonable expectations” placed on councils by the Secretary of State, Eric Pickles.
Think tanks and research
The Department for Communities and Local Government has published a response to the recent consultation on the Citizenship Survey. The survey, which is the key means via which to measure levels of volunteering, is due to be discontinued next year due to its costs (£4m p.a.). The Government expects academics and other data analysts to continue to supply such information in the future.
The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) must spend a proportion of its £100m budget researching the Big Society in order to maintain public funding. This has raised concern among academics that it endangers the “Haldane Principle” by which researchers themselves decide upon the priorities of academic research.
An updated version of the Indices of Deprivation has finally been published. This is the most comprehensive analysis of geographical poverty in England and covers features such as crime, education, health, and employment. It also ranks local areas by levels of deprivation.