It’s now been a week since polling day, and over the course of the next fortnight David Cameron will be putting together plans for the Government’s legislative programme for the year ahead. After leading the Conservative Party to their first outright election victory since 1992, Cameron is now able to govern without needing to rely on support from other parties.
Before putting forward the content of the Queen’s Speech (delivered by the Queen, but simply a statement of the Government’s priorities, scheduled to take place on May 27th) the Prime Minister set about reshaping his ministerial team. Cameron kept his top team of Theresa May, George Osborne and Philip Hammond in place, with Michael Gove returning to departmental duties at the Ministry of Justice, and London Mayor Boris Johnson now also attending Cabinet following his return to the Commons.
Of greater relevance to charities, Rob Wilson continues in his role as Minister for Civil Society – see how figures from the charity sector have responded. The Cabinet Office as a whole will be headed up by the experienced Oliver Letwin. Exchequer Secretary Priti Patel has moved on to a new role, with her old post filled by Damian Hinds, MP for East Hampshire. Hinds now oversees a particularly important portfolio for charities, as his duties include responsibility for charity tax issues, including Gift Aid.
But what policies will the new Government pursue? With no coalition agreement necessary, charities can expect to see the Conservatives seek to implement their manifesto in full. The Conservative manifesto – perhaps surprisingly – included a return to the language of the Big Society, and Cameron’s ministerial team, including Wilson, will now be tasked with turning that vision into practical policy making.
During the election campaign the Conservatives announced plans to give people working in large companies and the public sector up to three days paid leave a year to be used for volunteering. The manifesto also pledges to “take new steps to encourage volunteering” and even though what that means in practice has yet to be announced, it is a positive commitment that the Government can now be held to account on. Additional action is proposed to embed our strong giving culture in younger generations, both through the growth of the National Citizen Service and support for the #iwill campaign.
There is also an acknowledgement of the important role that voluntary organisations can play in delivering public services, with a particular emphasis on policy areas including health, justice and skills and training. Volunteers are seen as an important way of tackling cyber-crime, and there are also positive sentiments about the growth of new social models such as social impact bonds and payment by results – many in the sector will be hoping that this translates to an increase in opportunities for the use of social finance models.
Cameron’s Government can be expected to take action to boost the UK’s support for those in need across the globe. In addition to the expected retention of the UK’s commitment to spending 0.7% of GNI on international aid (now enshrined in law), the Conservatives also promised to treble the International Citizen Service to get more young Brits volunteering abroad, and to double the Aid Match scheme in order to enhance the impact of contributions made from British donors to overseas causes.
Whilst the Government begins to introduce the proposals in their manifesto, politicians and activists from other parties will be licking their wounds, trying to work out where it all went wrong. Both Labour and the Liberal Democrats have begun leadership contests to replace Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg respectively, with Labour set to announce Miliband’s replacement in September and a new Lib Dem leader set to be in place by mid-July. As soon as the final list of candidates for each position is, we’ll be taking a look at what each of the would-be-leaders has said or done with charities in the past.
Labour and the Lib Dems join the Conservatives as having just one MP in Scotland, where the predicted SNP landslide somehow managed to surpass most expectations. Nicola Sturgeon’s party won 56 out of the 59 seats in Scotland, meaning that the SNP’s current dominance of Scottish politics extends from Holyrood to the House of Commons. Elsewhere, Natalie Bennett is set to stay on at the head of the Green Party, and Nigel Farage’s resignation was quickly rejected by his party, which means that he will continue as leader. With both the Greens and UKIP increasing their share of the vote but failing to increase their number of MPs, both are expected to strongly push for electoral reform.
Turning back to what the election means for charities, there are a pleasing number of new MPs who have come from a charity background. NCVO have done a useful breakdown here, and some of the high-profile names include the likes of Peter Kyle, who used to work for ACEVO, Lieutenant Thomas Tugendhat, who established the Armed Forces Muslim Association, and Martin Docherty, who worked for years at the West Dunbartonshire Community and Volunteering Service. It’s important that charities have a voice over the next five years, and engaging quickly with those new MPs who are already informed about the challenges that many charities face will help to ensure that representatives from all parties are willing to be advocates organisations that contribute so much to our country.
In the next few weeks we’ll be monitoring developments and keeping you informed about what’s going on in the world of government and policy making. We’ll also be continuing our surveys to make sure that we know what charities are thinking, so that we at CAF can represent their hopes and concerns in our conversations with opinion leaders. Want to let us know what you think? Get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter @cafonline.