General Election 2024

Read our analysis of the general election result and what it means for charities. Learn more

Saskia Konynenburg

Saskia Konynenburg

Executive Director

Executive Director

General election 2024: What charities can expect from a Labour government

Saskia Konynenburg

Saskia Konynenburg

Executive Director

Executive Director

As the UK wakes to the news of a Labour victory, many of you will be wondering what this outcome could mean for our sector’s future.

The result isn’t a huge surprise. Labour consistently led in the polls, so we’ve all had time to ponder this outcome. Now the result is official, the work starts to ensure the Labour government puts in place foundations to ensure our sector can best serve people and communities.

What do charities need from the new government? And how can we best collaborate for our mutual benefit? Here’s our breakdown of the result and what happens next.

Understanding the result

Labour has secured an unprecedented electoral landslide that is one of the largest in UK history. They’ve won 412 seats, leaving them with a comfortable governing majority.

The Conservatives have had a terrible night, winning just 120 seats. They will now become the official opposition, having won more than the Liberal Democrats’ 71 seats.

The opposition benches will include an unusually large mix of personalities. In addition to the Lib Dems, Greens and Reform making gains, several independent candidates were also elected. Charities should be mindful of this when campaigning and seeking support.

Thangam Debbonaire, the shadow DCMS secretary of state, and Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow Cabinet Office minister both lost their seats. This means Keir Starmer will need to make some unexpected changes when forming his cabinet. Voluntary sector organisations will need to engage with new key ministers in these departments.

Lilian Greenwood, shadow civil society minister, was re-elected. There is a good chance she’ll be appointed to an important and sector-relevant position in government.

The size of Labour’s victory means it will be able to pass legislation more easily. We can expect them to use their majority to make early progress on their policy ambitions. Charities should engage with new ministers quickly to ensure their key asks are understood and prioritised.

There will be challenges, such as:

  • how to manage a large intake of new Labour MPs who are keen to progress
  • how to manage a broad coalition of parliamentarians who represent new seats with different local priorities
  • how to grow the economy
  • how to deal with the significant public policy challenges the UK faces.

For charities used to engaging with local MPs, there will be many new relationships to be forged.

What to expect and actions to take

Building a new, stronger relationship

Charities want the next government to address pressing social issues like poverty, inequality, and climate action. Achieving these goals requires a healthy partnership between the government and the voluntary sector.

The covid-19 pandemic tested this relationship, revealing both strengths and weaknesses. Now there’s an opportunity to reset and build a stronger foundation.

We're developing a Civil Society Charter to create a good dialogue and working relationship between government and the sector. We'll share more details about this soon.

We must continue holding all parties to account

At the Civil Society Summit in January, Keir Starmer promised to reset the relationship between civil society and the government. Labour’s new cabinet ministers will also likely have much more experience in charities than the previous government.

However, we must continue to work with all parties. This includes those in opposition and those running local councils across the country.

Securing fair pay for public services

We all know that charities play a vital role in service delivery. Austerity measures left many charities subsidising public service contracts. We’ve been campaigning hard to address this.

Labour has acknowledged this issue. They’ve committed to longer-term funding settlements for local governments and improving procurement processes. While Labour might not bring significant funding increases, their focus on economic growth could benefit the sector indirectly.

Creating opportunities for collaboration

Labour has recognised the importance of involving civil society in policy development. They’ve hinted at more opportunities for collaboration. Lilian Greenwood, Labour’s shadow civil society minister, has consistently said, ‘we’re not inviting you to the table, we’re asking you to be there’.

It’s vital Labour stick to this commitment. It will ensure a healthy, productive relationship. Given the diverse nature of charity work, the sector must also engage at various levels ‒ from local authorities to Whitehall.

Safeguarding our right to campaign

Labour has consistently stated that charities should campaign, even if they’re being critical of government. This commitment is easy when you’re in opposition. It’s much harder to say when you’re in power.

Charities must continue to amplify marginalised voices so they’re central to Labour’s plans.

Growing community as well as the economy

Supporting inclusive growth, community resilience, and volunteering are core to the voluntary sector’s mission. Charities and volunteers are the backbone of strong communities.

The Voluntary Sector Manifesto highlights the need for investment in social infrastructure. While Labour focuses on local growth, their plans don’t explicitly mention charities.

Volunteering commitments

Volunteering has been surprisingly absent from all the party manifestos. But it remains a critical area.

Discussions at our recent voluntary sector hustings suggest a need for better support and recognition of volunteers. This includes changes to legislation to facilitate volunteering opportunities.

Labor’s shadow civil society minister, Lilian Greenwood, acknowledged this. But tangible commitments are needed.

Navigating the balancing act

All parties expressed a desire for collaboration with the charity sector, but there will be inevitable tensions. Charities must maintain their independence and the ability to critique when partnering with government.

The independence of the Charity Commission must also be protected from political interference. Historical efforts like the Compact aimed to balance this relationship.

Looking ahead to life under Labour

The charity sector faces numerous challenges, from narrow funding to high demand for services. While a Labour government offers some hopeful signs, particularly in terms of engagement and collaboration, the reality of financial constraints means many charities may not see immediate relief.

This will rely on introducing effective processes and mechanisms for consistent and meaningful collaboration. Engagement often costs little but builds trust. We're hopeful that Labour will engage with the voluntary sector as a genuine partner in their plans for economic growth.

The Labour government should invest in preventative, community-based services, and use the sector’s expertise. By doing this we can foster inclusive growth and tackle the root causes of societal issues.

What happens next

Starmer will now begin to form his government. Most of the shadow secretaries of state will be confirmed in their new cabinet positions this evening. The rest of the cabinet and ministers of state will be appointed on Saturday.

Look out for any changes to the structures of government departments. For example, are the responsibilities of DCMS tweaked to transfer some to the Cabinet Office?

We will provide further analysis of relevant junior ministerial appointments early next week. We’ll also share some tips on how best to engage with the new government.

In the meantime, here is a timeline of some of the most significant milestones for the new government over the coming weeks.

  • This weekend: Cabinet and other ministers appointed.
  • 9 July: Parliament returns, speaker elected, MPs begin to be sworn in.
  • 9 July: NATO summit in Washington DC. Starmer will attend.
  • 17 July: King’s Speech, setting out Labour’s legislative programme for government.
  • 18 July: European Political Community summit, hosted by Starmer at Blenheim Palace.
  • Late July: Labour will publish a draft of the national planning policy framework.
  • 31 July: Likely date for the beginning of Parliamentary recess (TBC).
  • 2 September: Parliament returns until conference recess from mid-September.
  • Mid-September or late October: Likely date for the budget (TBC).
  • 22 September: Labour annual conference begins in Liverpool.
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