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Charities Aid Foundation


20 September 2017

With the temperature starting to drop, the return of Parliament for a fortnight and the papers being filled with the latest in political posturing, it can only mean one thing; party conference season is back upon us.

Each year, CAF conducts a high-profile package of activity across the different conferences, helping to focus minds on the challenges and opportunities facing the charity sector, and making sure that the needs of charities are very much on the political agenda. This year, we’ll be using our blog here to keep you up-to-date with what we’ve been saying, who we’ve been talking to and what we’ve learned.

We began with our visit to the Liberal Democrat conference in Brighton earlier in the week. The past year has seen the Lib Dems struggle to make the breakthrough that they would have anticipated; although they did gain seats at the snap 2017 General Election, this saw the party still struggle to regain the kind of political support that it received before joining the Coalition Government, and perhaps surprisingly failing to win the support of the millions of ‘Remainers’ that their hostility towards Brexit seemed likely to generate.

Shortly after the election, Tim Farron announced that he would be standing down as leader. In his place – after being returned to the House of Commons at the election – waltzes Vince Cable, long said to have had ambitions to lead the party. In fact, there was no contest, with all the other rumoured runners and riders stepping aside.

Cable’s political experience is in no doubt, having served in the Cabinet, but the Lib Dems face a real challenge to make themselves heard. In a world where polarisation and a drift from the centre is becoming the norm, the party’s positioning as what it sees as the moderating voice between Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party and Theresa May’s Conservative Party may struggle to appeal to the values that are currently driving political headwinds.

Nevertheless, there is no doubt that with Cable in charge many Lib Dems feel that the future is bright. And if this enthusiasm is to be turned into a rejuvenation of the party, much of that growth is likely to come at a local level.

Tapping into this ethos, our event at Lib Dem conference built on our work looking at the potential that civic philanthropy holds for rebuilding cities, towns and communities. As parties debate the merits of concepts including devolution and localism, our event built upon CAF’s recent report that argued that unlocking the future of our cities must include harnessing the potential of philanthropy.

Chaired by Lib Dem Party President Baroness Brinton, our event got the opportunity to hear first-hand from leading party figures with an interest in this very topic. Lib Dem Communities and Local Government spokesperson Baroness Pinnock spoke about the important role that voluntary groups have in empowering local communities, whilst Baroness Thornhill, the directly-elected Mayor of Watford added that, from her perspective, politicians have an important role in leveraging all of the resources in their local community, including those from corporates. This followed an overview of CAF’s ideas about growing civic philanthropy from our Director of Communications, Ben Russell.

You can read CAF’s report on our vision for civic philanthropy and our ‘Giving for the City’ campaign here.

It was clear from the mood in the room that there is a consensus that philanthropy has a major role to play in civic renewal. Whilst the nature of philanthropy is voluntary, political leaders do have a role to play in using their unique reach and position to unlock the local resources available to them. It’s extremely pleasing that the Lib Dems recognise the role that philanthropy can play, and we’ll be using our positive relationship with the party to seek to help it develop policy reflecting this in the coming months.

Want to let us know what you think about CAF's Giving for the City project? Get in touch with us at, or on twitter @cafonline.

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