A Labour government would set out a “joined-up vision” for the Big Lottery Fund, Big Society Capital and the Charity Commission, shadow civil society minister Gareth Thomas told a Labour conference fringe event yesterday.
Thomas said a more coherent strategy for the sector’s three most powerful organisations is necessary if the sector is to address critical issues such as future resourcing and incentivising volunteers, and to avoid mixed messages which undermine public trust in the sector – a reference to the recent scandal over executive salaries.
Speaking at the CAF fringe event, Thomas critiqued the current government’s failure to coordinate a “clear, coherent strategy” and stated this would be a key goal for Labour post-2015. A Labour government, he said, would prioritise “a clear strategic direction for the different pivotal players within the third sector”.
“It ought to be the job of the government to set the priorities for these three sector bodies,” he added, “and at the moment I don’t see that.”
He added: “If the challenge is to persuade zero-givers to get active, what you don’t do is start attacking charities in the way we’ve started to see a range of government figures doing. It seems like a very different environment for charities to be making their pitch to volunteers than what David Cameron offered when he talked about the Big Society as the answers to the problems of Britain.”
The shadow minister further revealed that a “formalised consultation” will take place “shortly”, addressing new resource strategies including online donations, payroll giving and corporate volunteer schemes.
He said that Labour is also considering the introduction of a UK version of the US Community Reinvestment Act which compels banks to offer alternative financial schemes suited to local communities.
CAF chief executive John Low, also speaking at the event, agreed on the need for coherent agendas throughout the sector, singling out the Charity Commission's “bizarre” response to the backlash over executive salaries and accusing it of “making statements that undermine public trust in charities”.
Low expressed further upset at the response of the sector’s governing bodies, saying: “I am very disappointed that the chairs and trustees of charities have been absolutely silent on the matter. They are the ones responsible for running the charities, for setting the pay.”