Children’s voluntary sector figures have said that the latest government concessions that water down proposed new restrictions on charities’ campaigning work do not go far enough.
Amendments announced to the Transparency and Lobbying Bill recently will expand the proposed maximum annual amount charities can spend on campaigning to £450,000 (from £390,000). The threshold for charities to register with the Electoral Commission will also be raised, from a proposed £5,000 on annual campaign spending, to £20,000 – making many smaller charities exempt.
In a further compromise, the annual spending limits will be applied over seven and a half months prior to the next general election on 8 May 2015, rather than over 12 months – taking effect on 19 September, giving charities more time to adjust spending plans.
The bill’s parliamentary progress was halted for five weeks in November 2013 following campaigns from a range of charities against the proposals. The Commission on Civil Society worked with a group of charities, including Children England, to oppose the original bill.
Despite the concessions, the bill will still cut the maximum annual campaigning spend by charities by almost half from the £988,500 cap.
Nick Davies, policy manager at Children England, said: “The fact that they’ve made amendments is an excellent example of what can happen when charities from across the sector come together.”
However, though regarded as “positive improvements”, Mr Davies believes the bill still represents an “unacceptable” constraint on the ability of charities to campaign and stand up for children and young people.
The Directory of Social Change has stated that the amendments “do not go far enough” and is petitioning the Lords to exempt charities entirely from the bill, as they see “little to no evidence” that further regulation of charities is needed.
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