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CAF Policy Team

A champion for charities

Charities Aid Foundation

Briefing: Labour Party Manifesto 2019

22 November 2019

Yesterday, Labour launched their manifesto which takes a generally positive tone towards the sector, with commitments like a pledge to “work with organisations and charities already making the UK a more equal and fairer society”.

Here are three other things we noticed in the manifesto, but if you think we missed something then tell us via @CAF.

1     the sector’s relationship with the state

labour manifesto 2019 cover

Labour’s manifesto includes proposals that would reshape the relationship between civil society and the state. It advocates a reversal of cuts to funding for public services and reversing outsourcing of public services. It remains to be seen whether taking services in house will have an effect on charities which have taken on public sector contracts, and whether the promise of additional public spending on services will ease the demand for charities’ work.

Another policy which would equally have repercussions is the repeal of the Lobbying Act. CAF has long campaigned on this issue (and associated concerns around so-called “gagging clauses”) so we were glad to see Labour’s position on the issue. The UK’s position as a global leader for civil society should be a source of great pride.

But the Lobbying Act has risked creating a ‘chilling effect’ on our sector’s ability to effectively advocate on behalf of their beneficiaries, so we believe it should be repealed. Another initiative is the introduction of a lobbying register and extend rules to “contacts made with all senior government employees, not just ministers”.

In a separate section, the manifesto touches on the issue of closing civic space in other countries by calling for more human rights protections and tighter controls on arms. CAF believes that a vibrant, open and sustainable civil society is an essential element of tackling closing civic space so we will monitor the proposed register to ensure it does not simply replicate the problematic elements of the Lobbying Act system.

2     A new value-led agenda and new role for DFID

The manifesto talks about poverty reduction, inequality reduction and climate change. Labour is fully committed to a standalone DFID and the 0.7% of GNI aid spending target. Within this new aid agenda, DFID would be empowered - for example gaining a seat at the Export Control Joint Unit and the creation of a team that supports foreign governments in public service delivery.

Labour also wants to reset the relationship with the Global South based on principles of redistribution and equality rather than “outdated notions of charity or imperialist rule”. We have argued for a greater emphasis on growing civil society in countries as they develop and building public support for charities within emerging economies to underpin civil society development. From this perspective, growing local mass engagement with individual giving requires empowering civil society in the Global South.

3      local control for local people

A major focus in this manifesto is the idea of changing the balance of power in favour of “local people and communities” and this will inevitably impact local voluntary organisations. Labour proposes building and maintaining community hubs.

Similarly, Labour call for more community control of the private sector through the introduction of a new Co-operative Development Agency, with a mission to double the size of the co-operative sector. This provides an opportunity to increase the role of social investment in the local economy. CAF has been leading in this space for years, with CAF’s Venturesome providing affordable, repayable finance to social enterprises and charities with over 600 social investments totalling £50m since 2002.