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Stephen Cotterill: Brexit, austerity, the Lords report, and fundraising

10 Apr 2017 Voices

Brexit and austerity have put the sector at the centre of a redefined social norm, says Stephen Cotterill.

As we go to press on this issue of Fundraising Magazine, Theresa May is poised to pull the trigger on Article 50, setting the UK on a course to exit the EU and embrace a new uncertain future. Whether reluctantly or with gusto, it is with inevitability.

In our June 2016 issue, we discussed the various potential outcomes of a Brexit vote and the knock-on effect for fundraising and charity services: the likelihood of a devalued pound, resultant inflation, a fall in house prices and a rise in interest rates. Some of these have come to pass, others haven’t.

I have never been an economic doom-monger about Brexit in the long term. I suspect that eventually growth in real terms will return to roughly the same level as it was prior to 23 June, with our global and European trading partners taking a reasonably optimistic and strategic view to dealings with UK businesses. No one knows, however, how long this could take and in the interim we are likely to see economic best.

This is where charity services, and those that raise funds for them, will once again be critical to maintaining the social fabric.

Furthermore, there is also the impact of repealing EU legislation, much of which has helped to protect our environment, working standards and human rights. One of the big failings of the remain campaign was that it repeatedly missed the opportunity to promote the moral obligation of staying in the EU, preferring to swim in the wider, popular currents of economic impact and free movement of people. Our involvement in the European community on issues such as refugees and asylum seekers showed our willingness to take responsibility for atrocities in troubled and war-torn regions, and, to some degree, accept our role in their creation. Policy lobbyists at charities will have to be extra-vigilant to make sure rights are secured for the citizens of this country and those looking to us as a safe haven.

To lay the blame solely at Brexit’s door, however, is overly simplistic. George “Six Jobs” Osborne’s campaign of austerity during his chancellorship has been catastrophic for social and health services, as well as medical research, education and training. So the barren soil beneath the feet of a caring society has gone untilled since long before the referendum. Charities have been relied upon to fill the gaps left by underfunding and cutbacks.

As the House of Lords Select Committee on Charities’ report noted: “Charities face greater operational and environmental pressures than ever before, but their principle is enduring and charities have always helped society through periods of upheaval.” For that, they need more money and fundraisers must take heart that no matter how hard the job has become, it is more crucial now than at any other point in recent times.


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