Tech and charity sectors raise concerns over Boris Johnson’s appointment

Industry groups, such as techUK, and charity groups including NCVO and ACEVO, are urging the new Prime Minister Boris Johnson to prioritise digital innovation and support the social sector.

Joe Lepper | 24th Jul 19
Now Prime Minister Boris Johson

The tech and charity sectors have delivered a raft of open messages to the new Prime Minister Boris Johnson, including putting digital technology at the heart of government.

Johnson was elected the new leader of the Conservative Party this week by 92,153 Conservative Party members, while his opponent Jeremy Hunt secured 46,656 votes. Johnson’s victory means that this week he replaces previous party leader Theresa May as Prime Minister.

In his victory speech he spoke of looking after “the poorest and neediest. And to build a great society.”

He also made a pledge to increase digital inclusion by ensuring there is “fantastic full-fibre broadband sprouting in every household.”


Digital innovation

Julian David, Chief Executive of tech industry body techUK urged Johnson to prioritise digital innovation to significantly boost the economy and support public services, such as help for the elderly and the environment.

> See also: techUK calls for council-charity partnerships to tackle exclusion

“Digital innovation is driving a fourth industrial revolution that holds huge opportunities for the UK to increase its productivity and create the high-skill, high-wage economy the Prime Minister aspires to,” said David.

“Technology also holds the key to solving some of the greatest challenges we are facing, from an ageing society to the climate emergency. The new Prime Minister should put digital at the heart of his government to turbocharge the economy, transform public services and drive sustainability.

“techUK will be delighted to put our expertise and networks in the service of these goals and will work with the new Prime Minister and his team to deliver a bold and ambitious plan for the United Kingdom.”

Meanwhile, National Council for Voluntary Orgaanisations (NCVO)’s Public Affairs Manager Chris Walker, is concerned about the scale of the challenges Boris Johnson faces, in particular the squeeze on funding for local councils. He also urges charities to lobby Conservative MPs to boost local spending.


Upcoming problems

“There is a mix of some serious upcoming problems,” said Walker.

“These include local government funding crunches that the public are starting to notice, along with a dwindling majority and increasingly rebellious MPs with constituents who are unhappy with the government’s approach. This means that the government may find itself with little choice but to spend more money.

“This is not to say that the next budget and spending review will resemble a spending spree, and where government can avoid additional spending commitments, they may well choose to. But if you can make a strong case for spending in your area, particularly to Conservative MPs, then not doing so might be a missed opportunity.”

> See also: What are ‘digital ethics’ and why should charities care?

Charity Leaders Network ACEVO Chief Executive Vicky Browning said that Johnson needed to be able to work with charity sector leaders to support communities and wider society.

Browning said: “Boris Johnson becomes Prime Minister at a time when many do not feel the government represents the issues that matter most to them and their communities.


Brexit all-encompassing

Browning continued: “Brexit has been politically all-encompassing but that has not led to clarity or certainty. Simultaneously the domestic agenda has stalled and political rhetoric is increasingly divisive. Boris Johnson has been at the centre of the Conservative party throughout this period and needs to demonstrate that he can tackle these issues both urgently and considerately.

“Civil society leaders will work with the new prime minister and government to build stronger communities and a fairer society. Part of this will involve holding the prime minister and government to account on behalf of the people and causes they serve. We hope to build an honest, open and productive relationship between the new government and the social sector.”

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