19 Mar 2009

Concern over Govt funding for community sector

7:03 pm on 19 March 2009

Community and voluntary organisations are welcoming the Prime Minister's call for people to give tax cuts to charity, but say funding to the sector must not be cut.

John Key says if people do not want to spend, save or pay off debts with the tax cut they should consider giving the money to those more needy.

Tax cuts which come into effect on 1 April will give people earning $50,000 per year an extra $18 per week in the hand.

Major Campbell Roberts of the Salvation Army says the need for its social services has grown by 30% - and resources are already stretched.

The Federation of Voluntary Welfare Organisations says there is concern that funding to community organisations is part of the Government's expenditure review.

Executive director Tina Reid says the sector wants the Government to continue to fund the $460 million Pathways to Partnership programme introduced by the previous Labour government.

Mr Key says the suggestion is not a veiled indication that the Government will cut funding to the voluntary sector.

But the Green Party says it is disgraceful for Mr Key to call on workers to give their tax cut to charity when people are struggling to make ends meet.

Community and voluntary sector spokeswoman Sue Bradford says it is rubbing salt into the wounds of lower income earners who will miss out on the tax cuts.

Ms Bradford says those earning less than $40,000 would have got further tax cuts next year under the Labour Party, but get nothing under the National Party.

She says it would be better for the Government to raise the minimum wage or to better fund community groups, many of which are at risk of going broke.

NZ generous bunch - PM

Mr Key says the economic downturn is a difficult time for charities and New Zealanders are generous people - giving about the same per capita as Australia and the United Kingdom.

However, they give only about half as much as the United States, where tax rules are favourable for donating. New Zealand now has the same rules which make about a third of donations tax deductible, Mr Key says.