The chancellor of the exchequer announced measures potentially worth billions to charities and community groups at yesterday's budget and spending review.
Speaking in the House of Commons, Rishi Sunak outlined details about funding to support the government’s levelling up agenda, as well as tax breaks affecting community pubs and other hospitality bodies.
However, the budget received a cautious response from some charities, with think tank NPC warning that Sunak had missed a chance to “make the most of the strengths of the social sector”.
Levelling Up Fund and Community Ownership Fund
Sunak said that £1.6bn had been allocated from the Levelling Up Fund, one of the government’s main schemes for realising its promise to address regional inequality.
This will fund more than 100 local projects, with around £1.2bn to be spent in England and £340m allocated to work in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
This includes money to redevelop the Theatr Bryndcheiniog Arts Centre charity in mid Wales, according to details published alongside the budget speech.
Dan Corry, the chief executive of charity think tank NPC, said that the sector may be “disappointed that the first round of levelling up funding suggests not much will go on tackling social needs or make the most of the strengths of the social sector to deliver the agenda”.
The Treasury also announced the first projects to receive funding through the Community Ownership Fund, which has also been promoted as part of the government’s levelling up programme. These include grants to support the Ty’n Llan pub in Wales, which is owned by the local community, and to develop a community digital hub in Northern Ireland.
Vidhya Alakeson, chief executive of the community business funder Power to Change, welcomed the news that “a real range of social infrastructure assets will be put into community hands in 21 places across the UK”.
Sunak also announced a £560m UK-wide programme called Multiply, which aims to improve numeracy across the country. He cited research by the charity National Numeracy, which shows that poor numeracy skills can cost people up to £1,600 a year in lost earnings.
The programme will be paid for from the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (SPF), which was set up to replace some of the European Union funding lost after Brexit. That Fund is set to open in April next year, although the timetable for sharing details with potential applicants was delayed this summer.
Multiply will be “a first priority” for the SPF, according to government documents.
Andy Haldane, who chairs a new government committee to help deliver its levelling up agenda, is a trustee at National Numeracy. He also sits on the board at Pro Bono Economics, the think tank which helped the charity conduct its research.
Youth programme will fund NCS
The chancellor said that the government’s focus on levelling up will include specific help for younger people, and promised to invest £560m in youth services in England over the next three years.
This money will be spent in part through the Youth Investment Fund. The government first launched the Youth Investment Fund in 2019, but was heavily criticised by both charities and local councils after no grants were made for more than two years.
Treasury documents show that this £560m programme will also be used to help fund the National Citizens Service (NCS). In March, the NCS trustee board admitted that there was a “material concern” over its future because of uncertainty about future funding plans.
Some heritage and arts charities will benefit from the Treasury’s decision to extend a dedicated tax relief until 2024. The Charity Tax Group had called for this extension, along with the Charity Finance Group.
The chancellor also pledged to support hospitality organisations, including pubs run as community businesses and social enterprises, through a 5% cut to the duties paid on draught beer and cider.
This will provide “further support to the hospitality industry and its suppliers as they recover from the pandemic”, Sunak said.
Editor's note - 28 October
A reference to the Social Prosperity Fund has been corrected to Shared Prosperity Fund