Charities up and down the country and across West Lancashire have been active on the front line providing support and assistance to residents during the Covid-19 outbreak.
But it is charities who are among the hardest hit when it comes to income with nearly all fundraising streams taking a hit. The London Marathon and other events cancelled, change boxes in shops drawing minimal funds and some charities who must charge a nominal fee to support their services missing out on this due to service cancellations.
Many charities have contacted West Lancashire MP Rosie Cooper to express their concerns and seeking support in unlocking vital funds made available by Government.
Having been initially excluded from access to the Small Business Grants Fund, the Government announced on 2 May that this fund would be extended to charities who are in receipt of charitable rate relief. They stated: “We will confirm the exact amount for each local authority next week.” and “Further guidance for local authorities will be set out shortly.”
Having been asked for support by West Lancashire Dial A Ride, MP Rosie discovered that West Lancashire Borough Council still hadn’t been provided with any information to enable them to distribute this vital funding to local charities.
MP Rosie took the opportunity to challenge the Chancellor on this following his response to an Urgent Question in the House from the Opposition on the Government’s economic package in response to the Covid-19 outbreak. She asked:
“As a result of the loss of income through both fundraising and small service charges, many small and local charities will be struggling financially despite being heavily involved and active in the covid-19 response and in supporting constituents. When will the Chancellor issue guidance to local authorities on providing grants to charities that are in receipt of local charitable rate relief but have up to now been excluded from securing the £10,000 grants from the small business grants fund?”
The Rt Hon Rishi Sunak repeated the figures of money being made available nationally, but refused to answer the question about when it will reach the frontline.
West Lancashire MP Rosie Cooper commented:
“It is almost becoming a habit of government to make headline announcements without any real idea how this guidance or information is disseminated to those whose job it is to carry them out.
“The Chancellor announced this very much welcome increase in funding available to local authorities so they can extend the grant scheme to include local charities, but hadn’t told them either how much money they are getting nor what the criteria is for issuing the grants.
“This leaves charities like West Lancashire Dial A Ride and no doubt countless others with mixed messages – central government says the money is there, local government say they don’t have it.
“As the Chancellor refused to give any clarity on the grant support, I have written to him to again ask him to address this and laid down further Parliamentary Questions to try and draw out the information required.
“Charities have stepped up to the plate during this pandemic and we must ensure they are protected from bankruptcy and closure both now and for when restrictions are lifted and they are still required to care for and support our communities.
“Local authorities have now been provided with some guidance, but it is still not clear how much they will get and whether this will be enough to cover all applications and local charities.”
Philip Walker, Manager at West Lancashire Dial A Ride commented:
“We have lost virtually all our fare income. In a normal year this would bring in £5,000 per month. We are, of course, trimming some overhead costs but if we are to have a serviceable and safe fleet of buses ready for a relaxing of lockdown rules, the scope to cut overheads is very limited.
“Charity groups have campaigned the government about this as it seems unlikely that the government deliberately intended to exclude small business that happen to also be charities.
“We are grateful that the Chancellor has announced this allocation, but charities like ours need this now and not be exposed to the risk of reducing services or worst case scenario – folding.
“I hope the Chancellor takes on board the lobbying from Rosie Cooper MP and releases this funding immediately.”
Covid-19: Economic Package
– in the House of Commons at 12:32 pm on 12th May 2020.
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on the Government’s economic package in response to the covid-19 outbreak.
As a result of the loss of income through both fundraising and small service charges, many small and local charities will be struggling financially despite being heavily involved and active in the covid-19 response and in supporting constituents. When will the Chancellor issue guidance to local authorities on providing grants to charities that are in receipt of local charitable rate relief but have up to now been excluded from securing the £10,000 grants from the small business grants fund?
Just over a week or so ago, we outlined plans for a top-up fund for local authorities worth more than £600 million nationally so that they could distribute further rate relief to the businesses that they thought were appropriate. Indeed, it would be up to those local authorities to make the decisions and they could well use the money for that purpose if they so wished.
We also unveiled a £750 million package to support charities through this crisis. They are an important part of the social fabric of our country. Charities are impacted in the same way that businesses and the rest of us are, and it is important that we maintain them through this crisis, not least for the valuable work that they do on the front line, but also for the contribution they make to our civic society as we come out of this.