Amidst the usual fireworks, shouting and all-round blatheration that accompanies the Budget, especially the last one before an election, it was interesting to see that, for once, charities had a glimmer of good news.
Following the prosecution of banks last year for manipulating financial data in the Libor scandal, £75 million in fines was collected from the guilty parties. That money is going to a very worthwhile home. Military charities and other good causes will be receiving funds in sums that include £25 million to set up a fund to help older veterans--including, for the first time, those injured in nuclear tests. Meanwhile, the Essex & Herts, East Anglian, Welsh and Scottish air ambulances will all be getting money to allow them to buy new helicopters.
Chancellor George Osborne said of the allocation of funds that it "took money from those who showed the worst values to support those who represented the best British values". I disagree with Gideon on most things, but for once he was, if you'll excuse the pun, right on the money. If only Osborne would clamp down on financial misdeeds more often, then perhaps we'd see more of this kind of thing.
Meanwhile, the amount that can be claimed through Gift Aid is being significantly raised: from £5000 to £8000, beginning in April next year. This is a big deal for smaller charities, boosting their intake through collection tins and online fundraising by £3000 a year. For some, this could mean the difference between survival and rolling up the shutters.
Let's not be too starry-eyed at Osborne's munificence, though. This government has been terrible for the Third Sector. Big claims for a partnership between the coalition and charities (hands up who remembers The Big Society) rapidly devolved into a situation where they were told to do more with less. The severe uptick in foodbank use is just one example where government policy has forced charities to pick up the pieces. The measures announced last week are welcome, but we shouldn't pretend that they're anything other than a politically-motivated handout. I don't believe that anyone in the Third Sector see this budget as anything other than a half-hearted attempt to curry favour. Whoever comes to power in May needs to do better by charities than this bunch of chancers.