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CAF Policy Team

A champion for charities

Charities Aid Foundation

Briefing: Liberal Democrat Manifesto 2019

22 November 2019

provisions without visions

lib dem stop brexit manifesto cover

The Liberal Democrat manifesto (published earlier this week), includes a wide range of policies that relate to charities’ campaigns for change.

So although the manifesto doesn’t lay out a vision for the relationship between charities and the state, there’s still quite a lot in there for charities to get to grips with. There are, however, many proposals that impact charities and will need to be delivered in partnership with them. The party proposes spending the £50 billion it claims it would gain from remaining in the EU to invest in services and tackle inequality.

Elsewhere, the manifesto calls for the establishment of UK and local Citizens’ Climate Assemblies to engage the public around climate change - work which is currently led by the voluntary sector. In addition, the Liberal Democrats are “firmly committed” to spending 0.7% of Gross National Income on aid and want to prioritise development that helps the poorest people in the world. So we think that there’s an opportunity to link aid to supporting civil society globally.

However, some of the priority topics for charities don’t get a mention, including public procurement (in particular for small and medium-sized charities), or the impact of the Lobbying Act and the use of ‘gagging clauses’ on the voice of the sector.

Here are some more things we noticed when we read the manifesto.

1     technology and techno–ethics

The Liberal Democrats present policies designed to “ensure that new technologies are used in ethical and responsible ways” an area which echoes some of the thinking CAF has put forward over the past few years. They propose introducing a Code of Ethics, certification and regulatory system for data privacy and artificial intelligence (AI) as well as investigating the use of algorithms in decision-making.

2     Devolution revolution = donation evolution?

This manifesto repeatedly calls for a decentralisation “devolution revolution” with policies for improving local government and empowering communities to make more decisions about what services they receive and how they are funded. These proposals include increasing the powers of the devolved administrations and even encouraging the establishment of local banks and “energy cooperatives”. CAF has argued that place-based giving will make local philanthropy more strategic and help build civic pride. So devolved decision-making and the creation of new locally-led services would represent an opportunity to encourage communities to work together and harness philanthropy to create opportunities.

3     sorting business for good

In the manifesto, there are policies designed to ensure that “business can be a force for good” through changes to statutory duties, regulation and corporate reporting standards. Furthermore, they want to encourage “a diversity of business types” to better reflect firms that aim to be both “profit-making and have a positive impact”. Through our work we know that cooperation between businesses and charities needs to move beyond corporate social responsibility. We want to see a better environment that allows for organisations to work together with each other and with communities, to support the greater good. So these Liberal Democrat policies represent positive steps forward for creating a framework that rewards businesses for trying to do the right thing.

4     trust, transparency and transformation

Finally, the manifesto includes points that were clearly influenced by recent charity scandals – such as reporting abuse overseas to Government and improving processes for whistle-blowers. In addition, the manifesto aims to transform reporting standards calls for requiring UK-registered NGOs and other organisations to declare instances of abuse overseas to government while “reviewing, reducing, or refusing funding to organisations found in breach of these rules”. The need to restore public trust in the sector is an important priority, with CAF research revealing that nearly six in ten charity leaders think that the sector has been badly impacted by recent negative media stories – a figure unchanged since 2017.