The Road Ahead

Our analysis of the major opportunities and challenges facing the voluntary sector in 2024. Learn more

The inside track: March 2024

Our latest update on what’s happening in Westminster and how it might impact charities.

This month sees more speculation about the date of the general election, progress on membership subscriptions, and several debates on the cost of delivering public service contracts.

Election speculation

The prime minister finally ruled out a 2 May general election last week. Autumn is still predicted as the most likely timing.

Charities planning to campaign and engage with candidates should build flexibility into their plans, as things may still change. The Institute for Government has shared an explainer on when the election might be called and the associated timings.

Speculation that Rishi Sunak will be removed as Conservative leader and replaced with Penny Mordaunt has been denied. This speculation is likely to continue while Conservative poll numbers remain low. However, there are significant practical challenges to removing the leader so close to an election.

Political campaigning guidance and training

Ahead of the election it’s worth familiarising yourself with the rules on campaigning for charities.

Watch the recording of our campaigning with confidence webinar below, delivered in partnership with Withers.

Digital markets bill

The digital markets bill has continued its progress in the House of Lords. The bill has passed the report stage and will have its third reading next week. Lords amendments will then be sent back to the House of Commons for approval.

The government has provided a welcome commitment to addressing concerns that Gift Aid would not be compatible with the bill and may threaten claims on membership subscriptions.

Amendments were passed last week which give government the power to fix the issue in secondary legislation. There is also a commitment in the budget documents.

We’re still concerned that charities might be affected by the bill. We’re working with HMRC to make sure the fix for Gift Aid is workable. We’ll also be looking to engage with consultation on the measures.

If you think you could be affected and would like to stay up to date with this work, please email

Cost of Giving Crisis

The financial challenges facing charities have been mentioned several times in parliament.

Liz Twist cited our Cost of Giving campaign at DCMS questions. Shadow culture secretary Thangam Debbonaire spoke about how charities are subsidising public services, citing NPC’s State of the Sector report.

This is an issue we’ve explored in our recent research: The True Cost of Delivering Public Services.

Lord Faulkner asked a question in the House of Lords on the impact of increases in the minimum wage for charities. Other peers also raised concerns about the financial challenges facing charities. Baroness Donaghy asked a question on support for charities working on domestic violence.

Lord Shipley has secured a debate on local government finance and its impact on communities. We’re briefing peers on the challenges facing charities.

MPs standing down

Several high profile MPs have announced they’re standing down. This includes former prime minister Theresa May and former Northern Ireland secretary Sir Brandon Lewis. The total is now close to 100.

Charities should start building relationships with election candidates. You should also begin planning post-election engagement with new MPs.

Keep up to date with which MP’s are standing down

The future of the speaker, Lindsay Hoyle, continues to be questioned. There were calls for him to resign after the SNP objected to the speaker’s ruling on their backbench motion on Gaza.

He found himself in further difficulty last week after failing to allow Diane Abbott to comment on racist remarks made about her by a Conservative donor. The speaker followed procedure in calling questions. But some pointed out he could have found a way to allow Ms Abbott to speak.

By-elections and a defection

George Galloway has been elected as the new MP for Rochdale under the Workers Party of Britain banner. This followed a controversial by-election which saw both Labour and the Green Party withdraw support from their candidates.

Further by-elections have taken place in Kingswood and Wellingborough. Labour won both seats from the Conservatives. Wellingborough was taken by Gen Kitchen, a charity fundraiser. The former Mayor of Lewisham, Damian Egan, won in Kingswood.

Blackpool South MP Scott Benton’s appeal against his House of Commons suspension has been rejected. He’ll now face a recall petition in his constituency. If 10% of his constituents sign the petition a by-election will be triggered.

Former Conservative deputy chair Lee Anderson has defected to Reform UK. The Ashfield MP had the Conservative whip removed following comments he made about London Mayor Sadiq Khan.

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