The drinks reception of the Giving Summit has been scrapped, but the Summit will go ahead as sector leaders suggest the networking soiree may have been untenable due to the friction over the donations tax relief cap.
Civilsociety.co.uk understands that the drinks reception at the Natural History Museum, which was to follow the Summit and was to include philanthropists as well as sector and government representatives, has been cancelled and that the Summit will now consist of meetings between chairs of action groups set up by government to look into giving. The action group meetings was always due to be part of the day.
The Cabinet Office has not denied that the reception has been cancelled and is not commenting on the issue beyond the two-line statement: “The Giving Summit will take place on the 8th May. The Summit will pull together the work of a number of action groups set up with the sector to advance thinking on a range of issues.”
The Giving Summit was first announced in the Giving White Paper, released last May, and had originally been due to be held in autumn 2011. The summit is described in the White Paper as “a platform for ideas generation, networking and decision-making, bringing together leaders and innovators from business, social enterprises, charities, community groups, academia and government”.
The white paper authors wrote: “We hope it will enable more social innovators to build the connections they need to make their ideas a reality.”
After some unexplained delays, a date was set for the summit for 8 May, but since being announced by civil society minister Nick Hurd, the relationship between government, philanthropists and charities has been put under significant and public pressure after charitable donations were included in a new cap on tax relief, with the sector claiming this would threaten millions of pounds worth of income.
Reception 'would have been a cheek'
Sir Stephen Bubb, chief executive of Acevo, said that the move to cancel the evening soiree was likely a face-saving exercise by government in light of threats of a charity and philanthropist boycott as a result of the opposition to the cap.
“They’ve made a mistake [in the tax relief cap] and they’ve dug themselves in,” Sir Stephen told civilsociety.co.uk.
“They’ve made things worse by talking about dodgy charities and dodgy philanthropists so it’s hardly surprising that they wanted to avoid embarrassment of having a drinks reception where basically anyone there would be telling them what a mistake they made.
“In some ways it would be a cheek to go ahead when they’ve behaved in the way they have. For me it wasn’t just the fact that they put this cap on relief, but it was the way they then moved to insult the charity sector by talking about dodgy charities and charitable giving through European institutions, when of course it’s HMRC who regulate that.”
Giving policy 'on hold'
Karl Wilding, head of policy and campaigns at NCVO, was similarly disappointed, but more sympathetic to the plight of the Cabinet Office.
“I have sympathy for the Cabinet Office on this because it would have been very difficult to bring together philanthropists and charities to celebrate philanthropy and talk about expanding it while the issue of the cap remains unresolved,” said Wilding this morning.
“Indeed until we resolve the cap issue, it feels like all government policy on giving and philanthropy is on hold. So we have to address this issue, because there are many good ideas likely to come out of the action groups and of the Giving Summit, but none of this is going to work unless we sort the cap out.”
No celebration of fundraising and philanthropy
Institute of Fundraising chief executive Peter Lewis said: “It’s a shame that we’re not going to have the celebration of philanthropy and fundraising. From my point of view it’s about celebrating the work that fundraisers do and celebrate the generosity of philanthropists,” he said.
“It’s good the action groups are going ahead, but it’s a shame that we’re not going to have that celebration.”
Reacting to reports which suggested the summit has been cancelled, Labour’s shadow charities minister Gareth Thomas said: “At the very moment when charities most need David Cameron to show some leadership the collapse of this summit sends a terrible signal to Britain’s philanthropists about the government’s lack of interest in whether or not they donate.”