January 2017: The inside track

What you need to know about the latest on Brexit, two important bills for the voluntary sector, significant changes to select committees as a result of Theresa May’s reshuffle, and more in this quarter’s update.

Government

New grant standards

Following the concerns raised by the sector, the government announced that the anti-lobbying clause is being replaced by ten standards for grant-making. We think this is a significant improvement on the planned clause .

Public services announcement

Following on from a review of public services last year, the government has announced several new measures , including a public services incubator to allow small charities to collaborate with commissioners to improve their chance of being commissioned, a kitemark to set out a best practice standard in commissioning, and the appointment of a new voluntary sector crown representative.

Former NCVO chair Sir Martyn Lewis will chair an implementation group to put the proposals into practice.

New Charity Commission powers

The Charity Commission has extended the notice period given to charities before official warnings are published to 28 days, up from 14 days, after pressure from the sector.

The Commission consulted on this power and the power to disqualify trustees, and has published new guidance .

Volunteering review

The government has launched an independent review of the challenges and benefits of young people committing to full-time social action. The review is expected to report to civil society minister Rob Wilson in October 2017.

Parliament

National Citizen Service bill

In response to the Lords debates on the bill, the government will add the phrase "it is desirable that other organisations supporting young people should benefit from the actions of the National Citizen Service Trust" to the preamble of the Royal Charter setting out the responsibilities of the Trust. A number of voluntary sector organisations argued that the bill should reflect the need for NCS to support the wider social action journey.

A number of amendments were also tabled in support of ensuring the Trust report on areas including collaboration with the voluntary sector. These amendments were not accepted, but the minister has written to the NCS Trust outlining what they expect them to do outside the legal framework.

Small charitable donations bill

Following its Commons stages, the small charitable donations bill, which removes some of the restrictions for charities claiming under the Gift Aid Small Donations Scheme, has now completed its Lord stages and is awaiting royal assent at which point it will officially be law. The changes will come into force at the beginning of the 2017/18 tax year.

The end of autumn statements

As part of his first autumn statement speech, chancellor Philip Hammond announced that autumn statements would be scrapped, and there will now only one major fiscal event each year, a budget statement held in autumn. The 2017 spring budget will go ahead as planned on 8 March, meaning that for one year only we will have two budget statements.

People news

Parliamentary by-elections

Two new MPs have been elected to the Commons following by-elections. In Richmond Park, Lib Dem Sarah Olney defeated incumbent Zac Goldsmith who stood as an independent after forcing the by-election as a result of the government’s decision to proceed with a third runway at Heathrow. Conservative Caroline Johnson was elected comfortably in Sleaford and North Hykeham after previous MP Stephen Phillips stood down. Further by-elections will take place in Copeland and Stoke-on-Trent Central after Labour MPs Jamie Reed and Tristram Hunt stood down.

Charity Commission

The Charity Commission has announced three new board appointments, who took up their posts at the end of last year and will each serve three year terms. The appointments are Laurie Benson, Paul Martin and Catherine Quinn.

Other appointments

· Aidan Corley has been appointed as a special adviser to the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, the department now overseeing charities a policy. The government has issued an updated list of special advisers .

· UK Consul-General in New York and Director-General Economic and Commercial Affairs USA Antonia Romeo has been appointed Permanent Secretary for the Department for International Trade (DIT).

· Sir Ivan Rogers has stood down as the UK’s permanent representative to the EU. He has been replaced by Sir Tim Barrow.

Dates for your diary

8 Mar

Spring Budget

31 Mar

Theresa May’s deadline for triggering Article 50

20 Apr

NCVO Annual Conference

 

What does a ‘shared society’ mean for charities?

Theresa May has given a clearer idea of her agenda through a speech setting out her ideas for a ‘shared society’ at the Charity Commission’s annual meeting. The analysis seems to be one of rejecting a ‘cult of individualism’ in which responsibilities are ignored. She’s also made clear that she is more open to state intervention in free markets than previous Conservative governments. For charities, it has to be good news that the Prime Minister chose the Charity Commission to make this intervention and there were welcome nods to the role of charities in campaign for improvements to mental health provision, another theme of the speech. Charities will need to watch as this agenda continues to emerge and be put into action, but the early signs are that the voluntary sector will inevitably play a role in securing the community solutions to problems she is seeking.

NCVO can help you to navigate Westminster and Whitehall

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