Charitable spending is getting “thinner each year” in the poorest parts of the UK, a think tank has warned.
Analysis by NPC found that charitable spending per head had fallen faster in recent years in areas targeted for government help than in wealthier parts of the UK.
This is despite government promises to promote civil society as part of supporting the nation’s poorest regions.
NPC has called for £9bn in funding over the next 10 years to ensure local charities and other groups have a role addressing regional inequality.
Charity expenditure was down at least 5 per cent between 2018 and 2021 in areas ranked as highest priority for help through the government’s levelling-up scheme, according to NPC’s estimates.
This compares with a fall of about 1 per cent in the wealthiest places.
The figures, based on analysis of Charity Commission data, are included in the report Building Blocks of Growth, published today.
NPC said: “In the highest priority levelling-up areas, charity expenditure per head is a third lower than in the lowest priority areas.
“Worse still, in the period since levelling up began, NPC found that this gap could be widening.”
It added: “Civil society is weaker in the places that need it most and getting thinner each year.”
Theo Clay, policy manager at NPC, said: “A thriving civil society can prevent issues emerging, connect communities and target local services to where they’re most needed.
“In doing so, civil society helps people in some of the most disadvantaged parts of the country become healthier and better educated, which are key building blocks of the local economic growth at the heart of levelling up.
“The health of civil society is hard to measure, but the level of charitable activity is a good proxy.
“Our data modelling shows that charitable expenditure is falling, and that areas prioritised for levelling-up funding have a third less charitable expenditure than richer places.”
The paper recommends that the government should create social investment zones where funding to tackle regional issues and tax breaks for local philanthropists could be used to generate more civil society activity.
The zones would be backed by £1.2bn from a social investment fund worth a total of £9bn over 10 years.
The money would be spent on long-term solutions to regional inequalities and could come from £1bn reallocated from the existing levelling-up fund, as well as money from the dormant assets scheme and new funding.
NPC has previously called on the government to ensure that charities were “key delivery partners to a social levelling up”.