Scottish Third Sector Reacts to the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement

Third Force News (26/11/2016) - Third sector organisations have been reacting to yesterday’s Autumn Statement.

Chancellor George Osborne’s u-turn on tax credits has boosted the sector as has his announcement that lottery money will be protected from any government raid for the time being.

It was feared that as well as crippling cuts to tax credits, Osborne would also announce that the Big Lottery Fund would have up to 40% of its cash re-distributed to arts and sports.

This however didn’t materialise and the relief was palpable.

The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) said the Autumn Statement represented a huge boost for the sector.

John Downie, director of public affairs, said: “The third sector in Scotland can claim two huge wins from the Chancellor’s autumn statement.  

“First is the decision not to raid the Big Lottery Fund to pay for cuts to culture and sport. Had this gone ahead, as had been widely expected in recent weeks, Scotland’s charities could have lost out on £30-£70m. This would have been devastating. 

“Osborne’s U-turn on his plans to scrap tax credits is to be welcomed but it should never have been on the table in the first place. Thousands of families have been put under huge strain in coming to terms with how they would cope when the cuts hit.

But Downie warned: “Scotland’s third sector has won two important battles, but the chancellor’s war on charities rages on. We need to be prepared to continue the fight in April 2016 when his £12 billion of welfare cuts come into effect.”

John Dickie, director of the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland, said the chancellor has only “half-solved” the problem his summer budget created for low paid working families. 

The chancellor’s war on charities rages on. We need to be prepared to continue the fight - John Downie

“His decision to drop the latest tax credit cuts is very welcome and will be a huge relief to struggling parents but, as the Treasury’s own costings reveal, significant cuts to universal credit mean that in reality this a stay of execution rather than a full reprieve,” he said. 

“It was always wrong to cut support for working families in tax credits and it’s still wrong to cut help for these same families in the new universal credit that is replacing tax credits. Wider benefit and wider tax credits cuts are still going to slash family incomes and drive up child poverty.  

“We need to tackle the long term drivers of benefit spending – such as low pay and high housing costs – rather than rationing decency by cutting benefits.”

Children in Scotland chief executive Jackie Brock said 360,000 families rely on tax credits to boost their income in Scotland and that removing this lifeline would have been a devastating blow.

She added: “We welcome the reversal of the proposed cuts, and are glad that the UK Government has seen sense on this issue.

“However, this is not an end to the cuts – simply a postponement. Thousands of low income and vulnerable families who will qualify for Universal Credit stand to lose out when the new system is applied across the UK in 2018.” 

Commenting on the Chancellor’s claim that child poverty has reduced Brock said: “Child poverty across the country has marginally reduced, but figures consistently tell us that one child in five in Scotland is living in poverty. This is one too many.”

The chancellor also announced that £25m of banking fines pledged to military charities and good causes from the Libor rate fixing scandal will be allocated over the next three years. 

Source: Third Force News

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