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Give volunteers council tax discount, Local Government Association says

Give volunteers council tax discount, Local Government Association says
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Give volunteers council tax discount, Local Government Association says6

Governance | David Ainsworth | 29 Jul 2014

Half a million people who volunteer in their local community should be given council tax rebates, the Local Government Association has recommended.

The LGA, which represents councils in England and Wales, has called on all political parties to pledge in their election manifestos to create a fund to help councils to reward “community heroes” who help run local libraries, museums and other local resources.

It said some volunteers already receive a discount, but that councils cannot afford to reward everyone they want to. It recommended a £50m start-up fund to allow councils to give 500,000 people a 10 per cent discount.

“The subsidy would reward the thousands of people who currently volunteer, while also encouraging a new generation to step forward,” the LGA said in a statement. “It would be targeted at those who demonstrate a sustained commitment to improving life in their local areas in a way which saves other council taxpayers' money.”

It said councils would work with charities and community groups to identify deserving people.

Community infrastructure body Navca said it supported the idea.

"So many of the things we value most in our community are made possible by volunteers, whether it is running sports clubs, friends of local parks groups or lunch clubs,” said Neil Cleeveley, acting chief executive of Navca. “It would be good to see the value of all that great work that volunteers do being recognised in this way."

But NCVO said the scheme would be hard to administer and would undermine the spirit of volunteering.

Justin Davis Smith, executive director for volunteering and development at NCVO, said: “We very much welcome any ideas for promoting volunteering, but this proposal raises both practical problems and questions of principle.

“To monitor volunteers’ involvement and to prevent abuse it would be necessary to create an inspection and audit regime that would be burdensome for both charities and local authorities. Charities would not welcome the role of being gatekeepers to these incentives.

‘The principle of volunteering is that it is done freely. There comes a point where rewards for volunteering muddy the water and undermine this principle, and this proposal is certainly approaching that point.”

 

Bryn Price
Director KPT
Kent Peoples Trust & Red Cross Kent
5 Aug 2014

This is already happening with many councils giving a rebate to Special Constables, thereby making them "volunteers who are getting a cash rebate". It has now opened the gate and begs the question is the special constable of more value than the Community responder or Scout leader?
The other issue: Will this allow councils to make demands on the charities in exchange for the funds they are giving to the charities volunteers. Who will decide which charities, let alone volunteers are included. What about a charity that does no work in the council's area, but has volunteers in the office there. Too many questions to make it workable

Nick Booth
Podnosh
30 Jul 2014

Why not just make the money that would be used to the rebate available to support community groups?

Meta Zimmeck
Partner
Practical Wisdom R2Z
30 Jul 2014

Yet another dumb scheme to incentivise volunteering - and, of course, to keep tabs on volunteers. As Justin Davis Smith states (yet again) volunteering is time freely given without the expectation of pay or para-pay such as honoraria, tickets to rock concerts, tax reliefs of any kind, etc, etc. It might be simpler and more effective (although less sexy and controlling) if volunteer-involving organisations, including local authorities, just paid volunteers' legitimate expenses!

@mikeriddell62
head of partnerships
hotpothq.com
30 Jul 2014

@Pat Murphy. I think grass root community groups could be trusted to organise and police those activities which are deemed to save "council taxpayers' money.”

The time-banking software would need to attribute the time contribution made by a specific individual so that the discount on council tax could be given.

This would be a system that links contribution to entitlement by giving
"gives credit where it's due".

Community groups should be trusted and empowered to administer and police the scheme locally, on behalf of the local authority, giving their organisation an enhanced role in the delivery of public services.

The aggregated amount of time that each group generated would be quantifiable and thus represent real (not theoretical) value to the wider community.

It would also arguably act as a proxy in the measurement of Social Value.

And if an e-marketplace were developed alongside the time-bank software then corporate partners would have an opportunity to exchange the credits earned by individuals for discounts on their products, so that only the balance has to be paid in cash.

The individual gives the time and gets the reward, and the business gives the reward and gets the 'credit' that it can then use as a proxy for corporate social responsibility.

Corporate businesses like bus operators and leisure centres would then be able to recycle their off-peak capacity into rewards that incentivise community activity, before the value perishes completely. (In business terms this is very appealing since the 'Marginal Cost of Sale is zero - i.e. it's cash right on their bottom line).

It's time we had a fairer system that enabled big business to support the great work done by community groups, social enterprises and charities. All local government needs to do is facilitate such a partnership by accepting that credit should be given to those who produce real value that can be shared and celebrated by everyone in community.

Trevor Craig
n/a
n/a
29 Jul 2014

Its completely unworkable. I'd rather my local council stopping giving my money to fund a lobbying group like the LGA and put that money into libraries that they've cut.

Pat Murphy
Director of Fundraising
St Joeph's Hospice Assocaition
29 Jul 2014

This would be very difficult to police. There are thousands of unsung volunteers such as carers, good neighbours, church workers. Also many people who have limited time and support charities as a volunteer at large events a few times a year. Add to this community service groups such as Lions, Rotary & Soroptimists. It would be very difficult to police and sadly could also lead to abuse

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