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.”