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Posts Tagged ‘budget’

What are you for Mr Hammond?

Thursday, February 23rd, 2017

8 Months after he picked up the keys to No11 it is difficult to discern any clear pattern or purpose to Philip Hammond’s Chancellorship.

His most decisive action to date has been to cancel the annual ritual of a spring budget. The one he presents to the House in two weeks’ time will be the last. In future the budget is to be rolled into the autumn statement and delivered before Christmas. It’s a sensible reform but scarcely spectacular. On all matters economic the Chancellor has ceded visibility, if not control, not only to the PM but also to other ministers, particularly Boris Johnson, even to David Davies. March the 8th will be his moment in the sun and a chance to answer the question “what is Philip Hammond for?”

On taking office last July the new Chancellor spoke about a “new phase” for the economy. Contrary to some of the reporting at the time and some of the comment that has filled the void since then, he didn’t say that austerity was over but that it was “right to review the pace at which the government balanced the books.”  Is that review now completed? And if so will he be challenging the conclusion of the IFS Green Budget which claimed last week that “The rate of reduction (in levels of day-to-day public service spending) is set to speed up after this year, with cuts of nearly 4% due between 2016–17 and 2019–20”?

This matters because it is these kinds of numbers that have led Lord Porter the chairman of the LGA, to warn this week that services supporting very vulnerable people are “at breaking point”.  Lord Porter, the Conservative leader of South Holland in Lincolnshire, subsequently said he was “hugely disappointed” by the funding settlement for councils which was set out by the Communities Secretary in a written statement  to parliament yesterday: “As we continue to bring the deficit down” wrote Sajid Javid “local government, must continue to play its part”.

Trolleys in corridors have become a familiar picture on the front pages this winter and such has been the level of disquiet on the government’s own benches that the Chancellor will surely have something in the budget for the NHS. Anything less will risk mutiny. But doctors and hospitals are part of an ecology of care that reaches out through domiciliary services, reduces need through strong public health programmes and builds resilience and wellbeing through a diverse range of community services.  So the question is not about whether Mr Hammond responds to the crisis but about whether he sticks a bandage on the creaking fabric of an acute sector that faces irreconcilable trajectories of demand and resource or  becomes the first chancellor to really grip the necessity for prevention and for a cross government “need reduction strategy” stretching beyond the NHS, into other arms of government, particularly local government, and on to the community sector where some of the most effective (and cost effective) work is already going on. Our own work on a community development approach to the early detection of cancer for instance has increased the take up of cancer screening appointments in east London by 15%.

Clinicians at the huge and ferociously overworked London Hospital just down the road from Community Links tell me that one in five beds are taken up by patients whose condition is caused by, or seriously exacerbated by, diabetes. We know that more than half of all Type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed by simple life style changes and the most basic early action. Ultimately it is only a sustained investment in this kind of preventative work that will enable our hospital, and the many others like it, to deliver the high quality acute services that they should be delivering.

The budget that the Chancellor is writing could buy enough new trolleys to placate his own side of the House for a few months more or it could set out the simple but ground breaking measures for the longer term transition to a preventative economy that I suggested in my address to the All Party Parliamentary Group last year  and that we have detailed in the various publications of the Early Action Task Force. It’s time to decide Mr Hammond. What are you for?

The July Budget: smoke, mirrors and ‘merry-go-rounds’

Thursday, July 9th, 2015

Merry go roundWatching yesterday’s emergency budget was a thoroughly depressing experience, not least because of the scale and range of welfare ‘reforms’ that were announced. A four year freeze on most working age benefits, the changes to eligibility for Tax Credits, and an even lower Benefit Cap (amongst others) are all likely to have starkly negative effects on individuals and families.

The new compulsory ‘national living wage’, pulled from a hat to genuine surprise, felt for a brief period like a positive step forward. As ever with Budget day, it is always worth spending more time reading the accompanying document than listening to the Chancellor’s rhetorical flourishes. The so-called ‘living wage’ doesn’t amount to anything more than a higher National Minimum Wage (NMW) for over 25s. We welcome pay increases (as long as they are on the way to an actual Living Wage), but this so-called ‘living wage’ is problematic for a number of reasons and largely feels like another misdirect in an endless political game of smoke and mirrors.

The first problem is the fact that under-25s will be exempted from the rise which, combined with cutting Housing Benefit for under 21s, amounts to a concerted attack on young people. Secondly, the level at which it is set (£7.20) falls short of the actual Living Wage (£7.85 outside of London), doesn’t take into account London’s higher living costs (the current London Living Wage is £9.15), and therefore will not make up for cuts to tax credit. Thirdly, the actual Living Wage calculation takes into account a wide range of things, including the newly cut tax credits, and so improving incomes is not quite as simple as this policy suggests. Ultimately it is a deeply regressive budget that takes far more from the poor than the rich, even with the rise in the minimum wage.

Spin and the ‘welfare merry-go-round’

The language used in the welfare reform debate is both fascinating and horrifying. At a very basic level the attempt to appropriate the term ‘living wage’ feels like a cynical way to score points against an opposition that is still reeling from the general election.

Metaphors such as ‘welfare merry-go-round’ are particularly revealing. On the surface it evokes the image of individuals spinning endlessly around a convoluted tax and benefits system; trapped in a process by which money paid by individuals in tax is then supposedly received back by the same person in the form of benefits. To free people from this ‘merry-go-round’, the argument goes, we must reduce benefit generosity and simultaneously encourage employers to pay better wages.

The merry-go-round metaphor also implies that there are people in society getting a ‘free ride’. In the words of the Chancellor, “the benefits system should not support lifestyles and rents that are not available to the taxpayers that pay for that system”. This false division between those who only ever pay in and those who only ever take out is highly damaging as it explicitly rejects the idea that a model of social insurance into which we all pay and out of which we all benefit at some point in our lives. All of the above is claimed to be in the name of ‘fairness’. But is it really fair to individualise poverty and punish those on low incomes?

Towards social security

We know from our longitudinal research that previous cuts to benefit entitlement and generosity have caused significant hardship, largely failed to incentivise work, and in many cases have forced people into a ‘survival mode’ in which they can only focus on scraping by day-to-day rather than having any real hope of building a better future. This is the real welfare merry-go-round; except instead of a ‘free ride’ the cost of a ticket  is poverty, hardship and institutionalised suspicion, often inflicted upon those who have contributed to society in the past or would do so in the future if only the opportunity arose.

Our benefits system doesn’t have to be like this. It could be something that promotes social security; no longer just compensating for system failures such as poor education, or causing costs elsewhere such as when someone is made homeless due to the Benefit Cap, but continuing to help us deal with setbacks and promoting opportunity. This could be achieved, in part, by social investment in the form of housebuilding, universal free childcare, and raising wage levels to an actual Living Wage. Lofty ambitions, perhaps, but these strategies and others will help to save money in the long term, improve social outcomes and therefore go some way towards a ‘long term economic plan’.

Alongside this we also need the Government to start thinking about the potential long-term impacts of their policies; ten year tests are one way in which this could be done, carefully scrutinising each new policy to not only ascertain it’s future impact, but also its impact across governmental departments.

Other places have already taken the initiative. Take the Welsh Government’s Well-being of Future Generations Act, for example. This has enshrined in law the promise to “make public bodies think more about the long term, work better with people and communities and each other, look to prevent problems and take a more joined up approach”. Unfortunately for the rest of the UK, this feels like a far cry from where Whitehall currently stand in respect to welfare reform.

Budget 2015: Three initial thoughts – a welcome, a warning and a concern.

Thursday, March 19th, 2015

The line-by-line analysis of what was included – and what was not – in George Osborne’s budget started before he had even sat down; I’d like to add three initial thoughts to the conversation: Welcoming one measure, identifying a concern and warning of a significant challenge.

First the good news. We’ve been banging on for years about early action and joined-up services. We welcome the news in a passage of the budget statement the Chancellor committed to the following:

1.87 Further savings will also be achieved by making local services work better for the people who need them. The £448 million invested in the Troubled Families programme has helped over 105,000 families to turn their lives around, the government has demonstrated its commitment to early intervention in a child’s earliest years and the £5.3 billion Better Care Fund is helping people to benefit from joined up health and social care. This is based on the principles that intervening early can prevent problems arising later on and locally joined up services can better meet the needs of vulnerable people. Building on the government’s ambitious programme of reform, the Budget announces that the government is exploring the cost-effectiveness of options to integrate spending around some of the most vulnerable groups of people, including:

  •   joining-up services for people with health and social care needs,
  • improving the links between health and employment support for people who are unable to work because of a health condition,
  • designing a more integrated, multi-agency approach to divert from custody, where appropriate, female offenders who are convicted of petty, non-violent offences

Although it is too early to understand the depth and scale of this commitment it would be perverse not to welcome  this clear recognition of the importance in invvesting in preventative initiatives. Programmes such as the Better Care Fund have the potential to make a real difference. We must continue to  interrogate the detail on this work and hold feet to the fire.

However the real proof of these commitments will be determined by adequate resourcing of the public agencies who are tasked with delivering them – as we have stated previously Early Action spending forestalls future liabilities and creates growth. Funding needs to be treated in the same way as capital investment – not raided for short term demands. It is a significant challenge to see how cash strapped councils will be able to deliver or support these measures. Back in November I wrote about a little noticed National Audit Office report on local authorities which predicted that some may go broke in the next few years. This danger still remains and further evidence of its likliehood continues to emerge. Even local authorities which just about manage to survive will only be able to do so at the expense of vital services and, possibly, some statutory duties.

Finally a concern for Community Links and colleagues in the voluntary sector who are currently picking-up the pieces when our communities struggle to cope with the cumulative challenges of low-pay, under employment, and extensive welfare reform. This budget was a missed opportunity to improve the lives of the most vulnerable; tinkering with the tax allowances has resulted in negligible and possibly negative impact for the lowest paid –whilst benefitting middle and higher earners. This budget has done nothing to reduce inequality.

Yet there is much a Chancellor of the Exchequer and a newly-elected government could put in place relatively simply and quickly to put an early action approach at the centre of their programme of work, or risk the future of important public services if they fail to seize the opportunity.

The Early Action Task Force has brought together a hugely respected group of leading experts and thinkers to set out practical steps for the next Government. Their compelling contributions  will be published next month in a series of essays: One Hundred Days For Early Action: Time for government to put prevention first

Osborne’s budget: forward thinking or the same old story?

Wednesday, March 18th, 2015

Cover100DaysThe past few years have been a missed opportunity for investment in early action.

In 2012 the Early Action Task Force published The Deciding Time, calling on government to prevent today or pay tomorrow. A year later the National Audit Office published their early action landscape review, highlighting how just 6% of major departmental budgets (including Health, Education and Justice) was spent on early action in 2011/12.

There has been some progress since then, though much of it has been outside of Westminster. In Wales, for example, the Well-being of Future Generations Bill makes long-term thinking a statutory requirement, thus illustrating that progress at a national scale is very much possible. At a more local level, Lancashire Constabulary have successfully begun a shift in policing towards early action.

The Budget

The Chancellor’s budget is unlikely to signal any real change in direction. Perhaps a gift or two to butter up certain parts of the electorate, like so many pre-election budgets before, but nothing that will embed an early action approach in public services.

Nevertheless, we are now at an important juncture. The next government, whatever its composition, has the opportunity to change things for the better – to start a shift towards early action, therefore yielding a triple dividend: savings to public expenditure, increased contributions to the exchequer, and thriving lives.

It is with this opportunity in mind that we will be publishing a collection of essays in early April filled with practical ideas for how the next government could put prevention first. One Hundred Days for Early Action brings together leading experts in their field, many of whom have had extensive experience in and around central government. It explores what systemic change is needed and how early action might look in a range of specific policy contexts.

Many of these things will take more than one hundred days to achieve in their entirety. However, setting them in motion and ensuring that an early action approach frames much of the government’s work over the next five years is entirely possible in those first few months.

Let’s not have another missed opportunity.

Budget 2014: The view from Canning Town

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

Canning Town Tube Station RoundelThe commentary and analysis from last week’s budget continue to ripple go on. This morning, Labour’s Rachel Reeves was on the Today programme, voicing Labour’s support for the budget’s announcement of an overall cap on welfare spending. It’s amazing how much the policy wonks and political hacks of Westminster have managed to write in the last seven days about the economic and political implications of. A couple of my favourites were this from Julia Unwin on the multiple benefits that tackling poverty would deliver, and this from the IFS about some of the longer-term implications for the public finances.

On the day of the budget, service users and staff from Community Links Asta neighbourhood hub, along with our Chief Executive Geraldine Blake, were interviewed on BBC Radio 5 Live to give their impressions.  But these things take a while to sink in, so this morning I asked a few people in the queue for Community Links’ advice drop-in service about what they thought of the budget.

Not feeling it.

The first thing that was clear is that while the Chancellor focused on how the “economy is continuing to recover – and recovering faster than forecast”, people in our community in Newham are not feeling it. People repeatedly said that they hadn’t seen much increase in the availability of jobs hours or increased pay, but have seen prices continue to rise. Saiid, who’s lived in Newham with his wife and daughter for ten years, works in McDonald’s but is unable to get any increase in hours. He said he’s seen “no new jobs, no start-up companies”. Mother-of-two Gemma, who lives with her husband lamented how “house prices have gone up. Everything in the shops costs more. Travel costs more. It’s really hard for people on low incomes.”

A budget for budgeters?

People also repeatedly said that the focus of the budget is wrong – in particular, its focus on savers and pensioners. Several people scoffed at the idea of raising the ISA annual limit from £5,000 to £15,000 – indeed most people can’t save at all. Saiid asked: “Who can save? Our income is limited and prices are going up: Council Tax, electricity bill. There’s no surplus around here – how do you save? No Way!” Gemma agreed with a focus on savings but said it should be focused on those with lower incomes rather than high – she suggested an increase in interest rates for those saving least, and not those saving most. Many were keen on a focus on those on tight budgets rather than savers.

Help for those who need it most

At Community Links, we’re see increasing numbers of people coming to our advice sessions with absolutely no income, who are effectively in destitution. Rachel Reeves suggested this morning that the newly announced overall cap on welfare could act as an incentive for government to reduce demand for benefits. One way to achieve this reduction is to invest in the Early Action which empowers people to  work and live independently.

But if it just leads to salami slicing of benefits, taking money away from those who need it most, it could have terrible consequences. The reality is that everyone needs a safety net at some points in their life. At Community Links we’ve seen how simply reducing spending on welfare, without offering people the necessary support can lead to devastating impacts: worsening health, increasing desperation, an erosion of resilience and for many, destitution. We will be publishing a report about this on 1st April and hope to work with the government to improve the support offered to people as the ongoing changes are made.

There is a clear disconnect between Osborne’s “recovery” and the reality in our community. It’s essential that this disconnect is addressed in the future – and supporting well-heeled savers and rich pensioners is not the way to do that.

Listen to the BBC 5Live Budget day broadcasts from Community Links:

Learning from Scotland on prevention

Monday, March 10th, 2014

It may be a controversial thing to say at the moment but the UK government could learn a lot from their Scottish colleagues.

I shared a platform at the CIPFA conference last week with John Swinney, the Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Employment and Growth (effectively the Scottish Chancellor of the Exchequer). The minister spoke with passion and insight about the importance of prevention being “at the top of our agenda”, about “disrespecting boundaries” and about “supporting the redesign of public services” to “maximise the effectiveness of our combined resources”.

Most interestingly he expressed an anxiety about the £500m Change Funds which we have discussed previously on this blog (pdf). £500m is a serious sum of money even when set against the £60bn total cost of public services in Scotland but Mr Swinney worried that it might be a diversion when we need, he said, to be concerned with “maximising the effectiveness of every pound”.

I would certainly agree that there is a real danger of layering an extra programme over a failing system but I am inclined to give the benefit of the doubt to a half a billion pound programme that is explicitly dedicated to structural change. We shall be interested to follow the long term outcomes. Meanwhile I was thinking about the same issues here in London at meetings on either side of the trip to Glasgow.

On Wednesday the embryonic Early Action Funders Alliance met with selected partners to discuss a new Neighbourhood Early Action Fund and on Friday Task Force members discussed plans for a Treasury sponsored Early Action Loan Fund. The Loan Fund would aim to stimulate early action spending across government departments and agencies by overcoming some of the structural barriers. The Neighbourhood Fund will work through local partnerships led by the third sector but pursing similar objectives.

More will follow on this blog on both projects in due course but the link between the two, and the Scottish debate, was all about “systemic change”. Get it right, use the additional funding to reshape structures and reconfigure services and the money will have been well spent. Get it wrong , and paper over the cracks with additional, unsustainable “special projects” and we distract attention, and resources from the real issues.

That’s why we would welcome new money for early action in the chancellors budget next week but we would be even more pleased to hear Mr Osborne talk about Ten Year planning and budgeting, transition plans, treating early action like capital expenditure etc , etc. It is this kind, and only this kind, of fundamental systemic change that will truly “maximise the effectiveness of our combined resources” – an objective which, may have been most explicitly articulated by Mr Swinney but which finance ministers on both sides of the border would surely support.

Early Action Task Force Budget 2013 comment

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013

The Early Action Task Force welcomes the news that the Chancellor is committed to a tax incentive for social investment.

It has been absurd that there are tax breaks for risk capital investment and for charitable donations, but not for those who want to invest in enterprises run for a social purpose.

Many of these enterprises adopt a preventative approach. Social investment offers the opportunity to pay for the fence building at the top of the cliff without the need to divert money from the ambulance at the bottom. At its best it is one of the change mechanisms we need to become a society that prevents problems from occurring rather than one that struggles with the consequences.

Today the Chancellor has signalled his support for social investment. Now he must apply the same logic to the Spending Review. The Boston Consulting Group have estimated that the social investment market could be worth £750m by the time of the next election and it’s growing fast, but the government currently spend £377b on social issues. Also rethinking the way that this money is spent, protecting preventative spending in the same way as capital investment is protected, establishing 10 year plans and investing a higher proportion in need reduction is more than one way of achieving “sustainable public finances” – the Chancellor’s stated objective. In the current context of escalating need and diminishing resources it is probably the only way.

Find out more about the Early Action Task Force and read the recently published report
The Deciding Time: Prevent today, or pay tomorrow.

The budget – early action, enterprise, and the advice sector

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

Yesterday’s budget has yielded the usual stream of comment and analysis, much of it repetitive, some inspired. Instead of piling in with more, here are a few links to read or look back on:

On the big picture: It’s easy to get bogged down in the detail, but I think this response to the budget from Oxfam’s Moussa Haddad provides a superb view from afar. He points out, amongst other things, that despite public service cuts shouldering most of the burden of deficit reduction we tend to concentrate on the impact of tax and benefit changes alone, mostly because they’re easier to measure.

On early action: A similar focus on public services lay at the heart of David Robinson’s post last week setting out our hopes for the budget. Yet despite the launch of Iain Duncan Smith’s social justice “strategy”, promising a wholesale shift in focus from acute to early intervention in social spending, there was no mention of it at the dispatch box. And no mention of the wider implications for public services which are withering randomly around us. We repeat our plea for a deep and considered analysis of the principles which should underpin the design and delivery of our public services in the future and which should inform the reshape.

On advice services: Buried away in the detail was the announcement of £20m for advice agencies like Community Links in 2013/14 and the same in 2014/15. This follows on from the £20m already announced for this year, which has been distributed. As Justice for All – the campaign group of which we are a member – pointed out though, this doesn’t even begin to cover the £100m annual shortfall advice agencies are facing, and is no replacement for legal aid which funds specialist advice. That’s why we’re still urging Government to keep specialist welfare benefits advice within legal aid, particularly as the welfare system undergoes fundamental reform, and the budget heralded a further £10bn cut in the welfare bill. You can write to your MP about that on the Justice for All site.

On Enterprise: We wrote last week about the wealth of potential young entrepreneurs in east London and our plans to help tap into it, so the announcement of a Youth Enterprise Loan Scheme looks interesting, and is something we might return to on this blog. But it certainly does not amount to the coherent vision for enterprise in the UK that we’ve been calling for over many years.

On social investment: Finally the social investment sector was disappointed that there were no changes in the rules to match ministerial rhetoric on social finance. The promised “internal review” suggests that the issue has been recognised if not addressed. The deepest knowledge on independent investment lies, by definition, outside the Treasury. The credibility of the review as well as the quality of its work depends on engaging with that expertise. We recommend significant independent engagement and probably an external chair.

George Osborne and the Budget: It’s the thought that counts

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

Chancellor George Osborne outside No.11 Downing Street on Budget DayOne week to go before the budget and what do we know?

We have an aging population and an emerging generation without work. Incomes are falling, unemployment is rising, cuts are hurting and the road to recovery is long and difficult. All the economic indicators are bad. Most of them will get worse over the next six years at the very least. The tax and spend approach, using the proceeds of growth to fund the development of public goods, is no longer sustainable.

This is an outlook without precedent in the lifetime of the welfare state and also in the lives of all of us who work in, or care about public services or the voluntary sector.

Without any more relevant experience to guide us we carry on as if nothing has changed for as long as we can, we defend our own, inevitably at the expense of others, and we try to plug the gaps as they appear. As this work becomes more and more demanding we have less and less time to think beyond the here and now. Heads down, battle on.

Short term “solutions” replace strategic priorities though we know, with absolute certainty, that they will fail us badly in the longer-term. “non-essential” services like detached youth work, social advice and open-access play are cut despite the evidence that this kind of early action forestalls far greater expense at a later date.

Attempts are made to reconfigure but they are small scale, randomly scattered and mostly cosmetic, designed more to seduce a fund holder than to transform a service.

Some provider interests are stronger than others. They are likely to survive in a brutally distorted landscape, saved by the strength of their lobbying rather than any more balanced assessment.

Some work will be done very badly – I spoke last week to a local council “team” that consisted of six people last year and has two this year but is still required to deliver the same service.

And some important things won’t be done at all, especially in the most disadvantaged areas. Less for less.

In short, public services will change more radically and more fundamentally in the decade from 2010 to 2020 than in any comparable period since the 1940s. Then there was a commitment to build, there was an overarching vision, a coordinated plan and overwhelming popular support. Today, across government and opposition, there is a will to reduce expenditure but no unifying vision and no coherent plan. Last time Beveridge was the architect. This time there are no drawings, just random demolition, salvage the tiles if you can and mind the falling masonry.

We hear a lot about economic alternatives. Alongside the economics we need a social alternative and, despite everything I’ve said, I think there would be an appetite for change. The team of two I mentioned earlier acknowledge that the old ways won’t hold. This is not rhetorical hyperbole – it’s a fact. And, as we saw in the 1940s, a period of far greater constraint and uncertainty, old certainties lose their currency in extraordinary circumstances.

Localism, privately delivered public services, welfare reform, reorganisation of NHS management and one or two other current policies offer random elements of change but lack the consistency, or the depth, to amount to a coherent vision and are less about the service received more about the bureaucratic plumbing; who delivers, who manages, who inspects, who pays. Significant changes in funding, governance or inspection regimes are not matched for their radicalism in the substance of the service.

Big questions are neither asked, nor answered. What if, for instance, prevention became the operating logic underpinning the way in which government and civil society spend their resources and judge their success? An Audit Commission report in 2009 showed how a child showing behavioural problems at five years old  and dealt with through the criminal justice system will cost £207,000 by the age of sixteen. Alternative interventions diverting them from crime cost £47,000. From youth offending, to homelessness, literacy and numeracy, drug or alcohol abuse, debt, domestic violence – the evidence is the same; earlier action saves money and improves lives.

And what if relationships replaced transactions as the organising principle? A huge body of evidence supports the proposition that consistent, high quality relationships change lives and are the most cost effective way of delivering the best results.  Yet services are structured to, for instance, support the most troubled families with 12, 16, even 18 case workers. Over and over again child abuse inquiries reveal not that there was no professional interest but that professionals were falling over one another. Policies to create lead workers, joint budgets, inter agency working are piece meal, small scale “pilots”. Why not deep seated reform with deep value relationships as the organising principle at the heart of all our public services not just for the eager pathfinder but nationwide?

We need to open our minds to new possibilities driven, perhaps, by financial imperative but led by a national ambition,  begetting a bold approach to government but beginning at the beginning with a 21st century ambition for the society we seek. What might be the defining characteristics of that society, and what, in that context, should be the governing principles on which we reconfigure the public realm?

Many of the themes that we have discussed in this blog should, we believe, lie at the heart of this transformation – early action, readiness, deep value, user involvement, collaborative working –  all potentially cost savers as well as quality enhancers, but the process for embedding them deep in the warp and weave of modern Britain is far bigger than us.

As one starting point we have been inspired by the bold ambition of the Christie Commission on “the future of public services in Scotland in the context of falling revenues”. Set up by the first Minister in 2010 and reporting last June the Commission outlined a clear set of principles for managing radical reform. This, they argued, is “not only a matter of fiscal necessity. We also have to implement reforms that improve the quality of services to better meet the needs of the people and the communities they serve.”

We admire the courage and vision of their findings and, though early days yet, applaud the Scottish government for their practical and positive response already, for instance, significantly transitioning expenditure into earlier action. We need similar leadership from Westminster. Not a trifling sound-bite but a serious process for reimagining our public services

No one should expect a Chancellor bearing gifts on March 21st nor, indeed, an opposition that asks for it. This year more than ever it should be the thought that counts.

Chanellor George Osborne urged to assist charities weather the financial storm

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

DSCN4335Community Links co-founder and chair of the Early Action Task Force
David Robinson
is one of fourteen voluntary sector signatories of a joint letter to Chancellor, George Osborne, asking him to consider the position of charities as he prepares next month’s Budget.

The letter requests an extension of government’s Transition Fund support for charities, a commitment to new forms of social investment, and reform of payroll giving and Gift Aid.

Community Links has long argued for the shift to an early action approach – working to prevent problems from occurring rather than coping with the consequences – this theme is developed in the letter which calls on the Chancellor to help organisations that are working with disadvantaged groups in disadvantaged areas in order to take “early action” to prevent or resolve social problems, or build skills to generate income.

Demand for our services is increasing as our capacity to respond is reduced; charities are losing jobs at twice the rate of the public sector, and as  the letter states, are “still being hit disproportionately by the worsening financial climate and the speed and scale of cuts in public expenditure”.

As well assistance for charities struggling to support the most vulnerable members of our society there are calls for a range of measures to make collecting charitable donations efficient – to make giving easier.

The full text of the letter is available to download .

Do let us know what you think