The Chancellor has presented the new government’s first autumn statement to Parliament. It includes measures such as a freeze on fuel duty, a commitment to raise the Personal Allowance and the Higher Rate Threshold, an increase in the National Living Wage and the National Minimum Wage and a ban on letting agents charging fees to renters. A detailed summary of what was announced can be found here.
What does it mean for the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector?
Reacting to the Autumn Statement, The Directory of Social Change said that it offered "little help for hundreds of thousands of charities and community groups serving millions of vulnerable people". Jay Kennedy, Director of Policy and Research at the DSC commented that "there was the usual random allocation of Libor fines to selected military and uniformed charities, which is appreciated particularly by those lucky recipients. But overall this government lacks any clear vision or policy agenda to support civil society."
Indeed, according to NCVO, there are a number of policies that are likely to affect charities, many of which that will increase their costs:
- The National Living Wage (or minimum wage for over-25s) is set to rise from £7.20 to £7.50 from next April. This is actually slightly lower than previously expected, due to sluggish average wage growth, but it will still represent an increased cost to all employers.
- National Insurance thresholds for employers and employees are also due to be ‘aligned’, at a cost to employers of about £7 per employee.
- Insurance premium tax is also due to rise from 10% to 12%, and salary sacrifice schemes (e.g. gym membership) are also losing tax relief (although pensions, childcare and cycle to work will keep it).
More reactions from the sector can be seen on the Guardian Voluntary Sector Network.
And what does the Autumn Statement mean for the communities that our sector serves?
Phillip Hammond said on Twitter that his Autumn Statement is focused on “preparing and supporting the economy as we begin writing a new chapter in our country’s history”. However, in the wake of the Brexit decision and in a climate of rising need and shrinking budgets, many do not feel that it goes far enough to stabilise the ship and improve the lives of people in Britain, especially those who are struggling to make ends meet.
In his statement following the announcements, Sam Smethers, Chief Executive of the Fawcett Society said that whilst measures such as the reduction in the Universal Credit taper rate and the increase in the National living wage were welcomed, they are “small gains when what we needed were more ambitious strides.”
Michael Birtwistle, Senior Policy Officer at NCVO seems to concur: "Much of the media attention has focused on the extent to which the chancellor would look to help those ‘just about managing’ (let’s please just call them middle-income households)" he writes in their response to the Statement, "While some measures targeted at these households were announced, the impact it will have on their incomes seems to be relatively limited."
Dr. Wanda Wyporska, Executive Director of The Equality Trust expresses her concern that the policies announced in the Statement "will hit the poorest hardest and further widen the UK's dangerously high levels of inequality. Those receiving Universal Credit will be glad to keep more of their earnings at the end of the month, but it's small fry compared to the wider cuts they face. The Government is giving the "just managing" a little with one hand, but taking a lot more with the other."
Bristol CAB has issued a statement welcoming the ban on letting agency fees. “Previous calls for such a ban were rejected by David Cameron's government due to the concern that it would leave tenants paying higher rents to account for the lost charges” they said, “Scotland, though, already has a ban on letting agency fees which has been in place since 2012, and those who supported it state that there has been no noticeable increase in rents.”
Below is a collection of responses, both local and national for how the measures announced in the Autumn Statement will affect the Voluntary and Community Sector, life in Bristol and the communities we serve, we will continue to add to this as more emerge: