Sector bodies urge Starmer to consult charities on election policies

24 Feb 2023 News

Official portrait of Keir Starmer

Chris McAndrew, CC BY 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Charities sector bodies have urged Keir Starmer to work with charities as he develops Labour’s policy proposals for the next general election.

The leader of the opposition said central government needed to support civil society organisations to achieve “long-term goals” as he outlined the five missions he will put at the centre of Labour’s offer to voters at the next election this week.

Charity bodies NCVO, NPC, and the Sheila McKechnie Foundation (SMK) all said they were encouraged by Starmer’s speech and urged him to consult charities in the coming months as Labour develops its policy proposals further.

NCVO: ‘Ensure civil society has a seat at the table’

Labour’s report says: “If we are to credibly achieve our long-term goals, we need government to be more agile, empowering, and catalytic - supporting a whole range of public, private and civil society players to make an impact.”

Sarah Vibert, chief executive at NCVO said: “We were happy to hear Keir Starmer acknowledge the need for greater investment in our public services and local government, alongside reform, to deliver better outcomes.”

She added: “We must also urgently invest in, value, and listen to the charities, volunteers, organisations, and groups found in every community. Our vibrant civil society is essential to achieving inclusive economic growth, net zero, better public services, and stronger communities. They must be at the heart of delivering the kind of change Labour is setting out. 

“We encourage Labour to ensure civil society has a seat at the table as they continue to develop their proposals.”

Vibert emphasised the importance of not losing focus on the immediate and pressing crises facing communities as “many of our members are struggling with spiralling costs, rising demand and falling income”. 

The NCVO boss called for targeted support for charities so they can continue to deliver vital services.

SMK: Starmer should protect ‘charities’ basic right to campaign’

Rob Abercrombie, deputy director at SMK told Civil Society News it was “heartening” to hear Starmer recognise the big issues of the day can only be tackled together, drawing on expertise of charities.

“Any government that neglects the unique insights offered by our sector will, more likely than not, fail to address the root causes of issues,” he said.

Abercrombie added: “The SMK hopes Starmer envisages a country where charities are free to pursue their missions, without fear of reprisal. Recent years have seen charities' right to campaign continually attacked and undermined. 

“Going forward it is vital Starmer commits to protecting and strengthening charities' basic right to campaign for their mission.”

Charities could bring ‘huge value’ to policy proposals

Theo Clay, policy manager at NPC, said Starmer’s five missions are “ambitious” and he will need to use all the resources available to achieve them. 

“Charities and communities could bring huge value to confronting the challenges Starmer identified, from preventing social problems arising, to giving people a say in decisions which affect them or building the skills to create the world leading growth Starmer wants to see. 

“Harnessing this ready-resource embedded in charities and communities is a key way that any government will achieve its social and economic goals, a point we will continue to make to Labour as well as to the Conservatives.”

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