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Budget 2012: £40m doesn't make up for £100m taken from legal aid, says Lasa

Paul Treloar, head of policy and communications, London Advisory Service Alliance
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Budget 2012: £40m doesn't make up for £100m taken from legal aid, says Lasa

Finance | Jonathan Last | 21 Mar 2012

The extra £40m the government will make available to the not-for-profit advice sector over the next two years is “simply not enough”, according to Paul Treloar, head of policy and communications at Lasa.

“It’s welcome to a degree,” he said. “But it’s tempered by the fact that there is an estimated £100m due to be taken away from not-for-profit agencies who currently provide legal aid services (such as debt, education, employment and housing) after changes to the legal aid budget – the Bill is currently in the House of Lords.

"Also, a very wide range of welfare reforms have been flagged up today which with the introduction of such a big system are inevitably going to cause problems on the ground when they’re implemented – and yet at the same time the very services that are going to help people deal with them are going to be competing for funding with all the other debt providers, housing providers and so on."

He added that, overall, the voluntary sector was under-represented in the Budget. “It very much revolves around ‘play it safe’. We’re concerned about the impacts of the changes to the state pension, and the pledge to save a further £10bn from welfare – when it’s already been reduced by £18bn in this spending period – is going to need much more analysis.”

CFG: "Budget priortises business"

Caron Bradshaw, CEO at CFG, was disappointed that 2012/13 has such a “Budget for business”. “It gives little recognition to the contribution that the charity sector makes - we’ve returned to just passing references this year.”

She welcomed the emphasis on growth and development, but expressed disappointment that despite a focus on growth and opening up public services, more has not been done to address difficulties in the operational environment for charities and other business.  
 
“More is needed to address legal structures around multi-employer defined benefit pension schemes, making TUPE regulations and Fair Deal work, VAT, and other anomalies which dramatically impact on market diversification.

“There are also concerns regarding the cap on personal tax reliefs, with no strong commitment that the cap will not apply to charitable giving.”   

She added that CFG is also wary that only fleeting references to the not-for-profit sector indicate that it is not a priority for the current regime. “Given that the only mention of the sector in the Budget speech was relatively negative in emphasis, it appears recognition of the value of the sector is falling off the agenda.”

Navca: "It should have gone further"

Joe Irvin, chief executive of Navca, welcomed the government’s promise of £40m for the not-for-profit advice sector over two years, and was also pleased about measures to simplify gift aid, calling the developments “welcome at a really difficult time for our sector”.

But he insisted that the Budget should still have gone further. “Charities supporting the most deprived communities are facing the double whammy of cuts in funding and rocketing demand,” he said. “This Budget is a squandered opportunity to help Britain's hardest-hit communities. This government needs to understand that the Big Society only works if the local society works as well.”

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