by Noga Zivan, D. Phil.
On 6 May 2010, Great Britain went to the polls amid great unease surrounding the country’s economic future. The election resulted in the first peace-time coalition government since 1939, between David Cameron’s Conservative (Tory) Party and Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrat.
With the Conservatives pledged to cut £6 billion in spending this year alone, all eyes are now trained on Chancellor George Osborne’s emergency budget, due on 22 June. Drastic cuts in a variety of services are expected, with uncertainty remaining as to who will be affected, and how.
For the charity sector, David Cameron’s campaign focus on the need to encourage ‘Big Society’ to take the place of ‘Big Government’ has been particularly closely watched. The big society idea includes commitments to support community activism, local responsibility and transparency. Parent groups will be helped to set up new schools and local communities supported in holding local police forces to account. Both should be helpful to the Jewish Community, which has traditionally enjoyed a strong ethos of self-help. Indeed, one of only two parent-led schools to be authorized in London in the recent past was the Jewish Community Secondary School (JCoSS) which opens its doors this September.
These are particularly anxious times for charities whose funding is partly dependent on government, such as those dealing with welfare and the arts. Commitments to the maintenance of front-line services have failed to quell fears over budgetary cuts, while Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s announcement of an increase in the percentage of National Lottery money which will be devoted to the arts is widely believed to be a fore-runner to cuts in government spending in this sector which will, at best, create a short-term shortfall and, at worst, leave it under-funded for years to come.
Both inside and outside the Jewish Community, the uncertainty of the first few months of 2010 have been extremely damaging in terms of donor confidence. It is hoped that the creation of a stable coalition government will raise confidence, and encourage donors to commit. Ongoing uncertainties about tax-rises and spending cuts, however, as well as the instability of the currency and stock markets ensures that the anxious times are far from over.
Noga Zivan, D. Phil., is Director of Fundraising at British ORT.