UK budget: “thin gruel” for Scots third sector

Web hammond budget 2017

Scotland's third sector disappointed by today's budget statement  

8th March 2017 by Robert Armour 1 Comment

Scottish charities have been left reeling after the Chancellor of the Exchequer largely ignored the plight of the third sector to deliver more cuts to the well off.

Phil Hammond mentioned charities just three times during his hour-long speech - and Scotland just once.

Among the gains was an extra £2 billion for social care, a further £12 million for women’s charities from the Tampon Tax, £20m for organisations tackling domestic violence and a £5m fund to be set up to mark next year's centenary of women first getting the vote.

Scotland's finance secretary Derek Mackay said that despite limited increases in Barnett consequentials the spring budget confirmed £2.9 billion of cuts to the Scottish budget over 10 years.

Mackay said it will hit Scottish families and provide absolutely no detail of how he plans to steady the economy in the wake of the UK government’s plans for Brexit.

The chancellor also failed to alleviate the welfare cuts that the UK government is directing at some of the most vulnerable in our society or to lift the prospect of a further £3.5bn of cuts to public spending in the years to come.

“The chancellor has today confirmed a real terms cut to the Scottish budget of 9.2% between 2010/11 and 2019/20. While I welcome the additional Barnett consequentials that were announced today, no one should think that this budget provides an end to austerity from the UK government – in fact there is still a further £3.5bn of cuts to come," Mackay said. 

John Dickie, head of Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland, slammed Hammond’s speech for being “more thin gruel for struggling families.”

Dickie said the budget may have put the next generation first in words, but it was silent on the massive rises in child poverty projected over the next five years.

Will the governmennt plough on with cuts that are badly damaging working families? - John Dickie

“The language may have changed from JAMs (just about managing) to ordinary working families, but the result was still a thin gruel budget for parents trying to get on – the very people the prime minister has said she would prioritise. 

“Cuts to universal credit have left it hanging by a thread but there was no move today to rescue it for low earners. That’s a problem that’s going to get worse every day it goes untackled.

And he warned: “Families with children are highly exposed to rising costs, stagnating wages and cuts to key benefits and will be pretty disappointed that this budget doesn’t give them the help, the breathing space, they are looking for.

 “The question arising from today’s budget is, will the UK government bring forward policies to avert the projected increase in child poverty or will it plough on with cuts that are badly damaging working families?” 

The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) called it an “underwhelming budget” and wasn’t surprised the third sector had been largely forgotten once again.

John Downie, director of public affairs at SCVO, added: “We hope the Scottish Government uses its share of the chancellor’s extra £2bn for social care to support payment of the Scottish Living Wage in third sector care organisations for the coming three years.

“Such a commitment would be particularly fitting today, International Women’s Day, as women make up the vast majority of the social care workforce.”

Social Enterprise UK called it “a relatively safe budget but one which won’t deliver the radical change the economy needs.”

Its chief executive Peter Holbrook said: “What we saw today was a relatively safe budget featuring some welcome steps but one which won’t deliver the radical change the economy needs.

"We welcome the discretionary business rates relief fund which local authorities must use to support those businesses which offer the most sustainable economic, environmental and social value.

"There are also welcome measures to reduce the burden on small co-operatives.

"The discount on rates for pubs will be welcomed by communities looking to set up community pubs and the action to fund broadband for local groups is vital to create the digital infrastructure required to ensure more balanced regional growth.

“Overall though we’ve got used to seeing no references to social enterprise in the budget.”

The Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) said the UK government needs to listen to the voice of charities and set out a post-Brexit social plan.

Hannah Terrey, CAF’s head of policy and campaigns, said: “Charities are playing an ever-increasing role in supporting people across society and are seeing demand for services rise against decreased funding. 

"We know that one in five chief executives say that their organisation is struggling to survive.

“It is good news that the government has given funding to some charities in today’s budget but there needs to be more to the plan than temporary funding measures.”

13th March 2017 by Rose Burn

Let's remember that Holyrood has income tax raising powers so if we want more money for public services all we need to do is raise some money ourselves.