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The inside track: January 2024

Our latest update on what’s happening in Westminster and how it might impact charities. This month sees a summit between Labour and civil society, legislation that could affect charity membership subscriptions, and a major intervention by Conservative MPs on local government finance.

Labour summit

The big political event for the charity sector this month was Labour’s summit with civil society, organised by Pro Bono Economics.

Labour’s leader, Sir Keir Starmer, delivered a widely reported keynote speech. While national reporting focused on his defence of the National Trust and RNLI, he also made a commitment that a future Labour government would work in partnership with the sector.

The rest of the event saw more detailed discussions about how civil society can support Labour’s five missions. Shadow cabinet members Yvette Cooper, Wes Streeting and Bridget Phillipson also attended.

Our chief executive, Sarah Vibert, shared reflections on the relationship between Labour and civil society.

Learn more about Pro Bono Economics’ work on the summit.

Digital markets bill

Concerns have been raised about the impact of the digital markets bill on auto-renewal subscriptions. Specifically, on charities’ ability to claim Gift Aid on membership subscriptions. The bill could mean charities claiming Gift Aid may have to provide refunds. This would go against Gift Aid rules.

We’re helping to coordinate a group of charities that are working with the government to fix this problem.

We’re also supporting an amendment to the bill tabled by Conservative peer Lord Mendoza. The amendment would clarify that new auto-renewal subscription rules would not apply to subscriptions that are considered a gift to a charity.

We expect the digital markets bill committee to debate the amendment next week.

Local government finance

The government has announced £600m of new funding for local authorities.

£500m of this will be available through the social care grant. Additional support will also be available for rural services. More details will be shared in the budget on 6 March.

Before this announcement, over 40 Conservative MPs signed a letter from the County All Party Parliamentary Group. The letter requested emergency funding to support the delivery of services. It was signed by seven former cabinet ministers.

We’re also calling for increased funding for local authorities. We want funding to be passed on to charities delivering public services. Our recent survey found that 73% of charities can’t meet current demand for the public services they deliver.

This new funding is welcome, but it’s unlikely to filter through to charities providing public services. We’ll continue to call for increased funding so that all grants and contracts can be uplifted to meet the true costs of service delivery.

By-elections

The government is facing another round of by-elections. This could further reduce its majority in parliament.

The recall petition against Peter Bone was successful. A by-election will now be held in Wellingborough.

Former Conservative minister Chris Skidmore resigned from the party and as an MP. This was in protest at his party’s intention to issue new oil and gas licenses. There will now be a by-election in his Kingswood seat. The Kingswood and Wellingborough by-elections will both take place on 15 February.

Another by-election will take place in Rochdale after long-serving MP Sir Tony Lloyd died of blood cancer.

Blackpool South MP Scott Benton is appealing a 35-day ban recommended by the Standards Committee. If the appeal is unsuccessful and MPs uphold the recommendation, he faces a recall petition and a potential by-election.

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