Manifesto Watch 2015: Liberal Democrats

April 15, 2015 at 18:30

CFG’s analysis of the party manifestos continues with the Liberal Democrats which unveiled their manifesto earlier today.

Stronger Economy. Fairer Society. Opportunity for Everyone – The Liberal Democrats Manifesto 2015

Summary of policies affecting charities:

Sector-wide

  • Lib Dems ‘value the important role of the voluntary, independent and community sectors’ in communities and delivering public services
  • Support social investment for charities and social enterprises
  • Extend business rate review to consider introducing a Land Value Tax
  • New HMRC target to reduce the tax gap and new general anti-avoidance rule
  • Ask all companies with more than 250 employees to publish different pay levels between men and women in their organisation, and will consider extending to cover Living Wage and pay ratios
  • Will also consult on equality pay reviews and consulting staff on executive pay
  • Review unpaid internships
  • Independent review on how to set a Living Wage across all sectors

Local government/Public Services

  • Continue work to open public procurement to small and medium sized companies and voluntary sector
  • Freedom of Information Requests to be extended to all private companies delivering public services
  • Encourage health services to link up with LA social care teams and voluntary services
  • Establish a new incubator for social enterprises to develop innovative solutions to policy problems
  • Devolve The Work Programme and improve incentives for providers
  • High standards of data protection on public service providers
  • Work with LAs to promote Living Wage
  • New Public Sector Sustainability Duty requiring steadily higher green criteria in public procurement policy
  • Prohibit discrimination on the ground of religion in provision of public services
  • Spread mutual structures and employee participation in the public sector

Health & Social Care

  • Work with charities to raise awareness of the signs of killer diseases
  • Promote evidence based social prescribing

Policing/Crime

  • Abolish Police and Crime Commissioners  and introducing Police Boards made up of local councillors
  • Increase use of non-custodial punishments such as community work
  • Review Legal Aid provision
  • Work with civil society organisations to combat extremism

Education & Young People

  • Promote social action and volunteering at school, college and university

Financial inclusion

  • Promote a new community banking sector to support SMEs and social enterprise
  • Encouraging growth of crowd-funding and alternative finance models

Arts

  • Keep free access to museums and galleries

International development

  • Keep 0.7% aid commitment
  • New Civil Society Partnership Scheme to build links between peoples in rich and poor countries

Analysis for charities

The Liberal Democrat Manifesto has a number of commitments that could impact on charities.

On public services, the Liberal Democrats would encourage more integration and transparency as well as devolving services to the local level where possible. There are several policies to encourage working with charities and social enterprises in areas such as health. There is also strong support for the Living Wage and using public procurement to achieve policy goals. If adopted, charities would have to think about how they can build these criteria into their bids and demonstrate their added social value. There would also be reform in areas such as Policing with new Police Boards, meaning that charities would need to develop new relationships.

On tax, the Liberal Democrats would continue Coalition policy with a tough line on tax avoidance which charities would need to be wary about indirectly impacting on existing tax reliefs. Radical reform such as introducing a Land Value Tax to replace Business Rates could also have a significant impact if charities did not secure a relief.

For both public service providers and large charities there would likely be increased reporting and compliance. For public service providing charities, extending the Freedom of Information Act could create additional costs and administration. For large charities, publishing on gender pay levels as well as potentially the Living Wage and pay ratios could add further costs. Charities would need to ensure that that put in plans to adapt to this enhanced transparency.

There is also a strong focus on social investment and social enterprise throughout, meaning that the current programmes of supporting charities through social investment would likely continue.

Charity Finance Group has released a briefing for charity members on its priorities for the next government which you can read here.