The headlines of getting people “back to work” may well be the focus in today’s papers, but for many community-owned businesses that Plunkett represents there were still questions unanswered in yesterday’s budget announcements. The biggest being where’s the ongoing support for energy bills? It was fantastic to hear that households will see an extension to the relief (for a further 3 months) but what about small businesses that are hurtling towards a cliff edge and exposed to continuing volatile prices? This uncertainty continues to be the biggest challenge facing our sector.
Overall the budget takeaways appear to be positive for many people with the freeze in fuel duty, the increased access to free childcare, removal of caps on pension allowances attempting to put money back in to individual household budgets and get people back in to employment. However, the stark forecast by the Resolution Foundation, that real disposable incomes are on track to remain lower by 2027/28 than before the pandemic show that there is no respite just yet in respect of the cost of living crisis.
Responding to this, the announcement of a £100m to help organisations (in England only) to back “people struggling in tough” times provided a big win for the charity sector, amongst the other giveaways targeted at getting individuals back to work. The inclusion of this funding in yesterday’s budget must be credited to organisations like NCVO and one of Plunkett’s closest partners, Locality for their continued campaigning to make sure that the most vulnerable in society are supported in the face of such obvious challenge.
As reported in Third Sector magazine, the £100m – which will be distributed via DCMS – will be split, with roughly three quarters provided in grants to frontline charities and community organisations most impacted by increased demand for their services. The remaining monies, and of perhaps greatest interest to community-owned businesses, will be used to fund “the energy efficiency and sustainability of voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations.” Plunkett will seek clarity on how this funding will be made available and promote this to the network at the earliest opportunity.