Budget 2017: “Government is missing a trick”

Social enterprise failed to get a mention in yesterday’s Autumn Statement for the UK, resulting in the government being accused of missing “a great opportunity” to recognise the sector’s role in creating positive social change in communities across the country.

This repeats the circumstances in March this year, when the chancellor also failed to address social enterprise in the current government's last ever spring budget.

Mark Norbury, CEO of UnLtd, said: “We welcome many of the aspirations outlined in yesterday’s budget, particularly around building a more inclusive economy that gives everyone the opportunity to shine. The UK really can be a hub of enterprise and innovation, and a beacon of creativity. Social entrepreneurs make this happen all the time – it’s their bread and butter. So it was a shame that social entrepreneurship was not referenced once in the budget speech.

“Social entrepreneurs are at the heart of much of the positive social change we see in our communities. The chancellor missed a great opportunity to embrace their dynamism and impact. The Government would do well to recognise the potential of social entrepreneurs, and work with them to build a fairer and more hopeful society.”

UnLtd_Mark NorburyMark Norbury, CEO at UnLtd

Karl Wilding, director of public policy and volunteering at NCVO, said that while it “was not a budget with much to say about the voluntary sector. Or social enterprise. Or volunteering. There are clearly large swathes of the budget that will impact on charities.”

These announcements include new measures to reduce homelessness in the UK. A Homelessness Reduction Taskforce has been launched to develop a cross-government strategy to work towards the commitment to halving rough sleeping by 2022 and eliminating it by 2027. As part of this strategy, £28m will be invested in three Housing First pilots in Manchester, Liverpool and the West Midlands.

The chancellor Philip Hammond also announced changes to Universal Credit, reducing the waiting time for applicants by seven days, and allocated £6.3bn of new funding for the NHS over the next five years. “There was, however, no mention of much needed boost for the funding of social care, despite the LGA estimating that there will be a £5.8bn funding gap for councils by 2019/20,” noted Paul Winyard at NCVO.

Vidhya Alakeson, CEO of Power to Change, said: “The Chancellor spoke of 'a Conservative Government giving power back to the people of Britain'. It is encouraging to see that devolution is not dead and the new £1.7bn Transforming Cities Fund is a welcome announcement, but the Government needs to go much further. Power and funding must be driven all the way down to communities so that local people can be part of the solution in helping tackle the decline in local economies and entrenched regional inequalities.

"In short, a good start, but if it fails to seize this obvious opportunity for local people to have a stake in improving their own lives and neighbourhoods, the Government is missing a trick."

The Transforming Cities Fund will finance ‘intra-city transport’ and ‘will target projects which drive productivity by improving connectivity’, particularly between the north and south, to support the ‘Northern Powerhouse’.

Peter Holbrook, CEO of Social Enterprise UK, said: “This Budget tinkers around the edges and is not nearly as ambitious as we had been led to believe. The Chancellor has not recognised that the structure of the economy and business itself must change to deliver the prosperous and inclusive economy he says he wants

“Disappointingly, the Government has not announced a review of public sector procurement. Much of the Government’s remaining credibility now rests on next week’s Industrial Strategy which must deliver radical change.

“We welcome the additional money earmarked for the NHS, but the investment in Sustainability and Transformation Plans must be allocated fairly, transparently, and where it can have the biggest impact and not just used to bail out acute trusts.”

To access the Autumn Statement 2017 in full, click here.