An Air of Caution, But With Good Reason? - The Government’s Spring Statement, March 201926-Mar-2019
In his second Spring Statement, the Chancellor, Philip Hammond, recently announced the Government’s plans for a series of discussions and meetings that might affect the charity sector.
As with last year’s statement, the Chancellor had put making any major tax and spending decisions on hold. This came as a frustration to some charities as they had wanted a boost in funding; but in the statement the Chancellor showed caution, as this Spring Statement came at time when a series of difficult parliamentary votes - based around the UK’s withdrawal from the EU - were still taking place.
The Chancellor did announce the operation of insurance premium tax would be reviewed and calls for evidence on the use of Social Investment Tax Relief (SITR) and on how to improve the VAT partial exemption regime and the capital goods scheme.
Meanwhile, the Office for Budget Responsibility, who provides independent economic forecasts and studies of the public finances, had lowered its outlook for growth in 2019 to 1.2 per cent from its previous report of 1.3 per cent in the 2018 autumn budget .
The sentiment from NCVO suggested that the consultations that had been announced were a welcome action, but hinted that the Government’s three-year spending review later this year would be more important for the sector.
The sentiment from Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) again suggested the spending review later this year should provide more details for organisations once plans for UK’s withdrawal from the EU were clarified.
The reaction from Social Enterprise UK suggested that the statement was a lost opportunity to address the UK’s economic direction; and unless there was a redesign in business to focus on long-term investment and public good, there would not be the economic and social turnaround that is greatly needed.
The Voluntary Organisations Disability Group (VODG), the umbrella body for not-for-profit disability services, expressed frustration at on-going delays to the Government’s long-planned social care reforms even though it was recognised that the UK departure from Europe was a current priority. The Home Farm Trust (Hft) reinforced this view, suggesting putting a hold on social care reform was affecting the quality of care the sector could provide.
For this season, although there were no specific announcements directly related to charities, there were a number of noteworthy announcements in the Chancellor’s Written Ministerial Statement that accompanied the speech.