Share

Tribunal decision responses: Case is 'ultimately political' and 'not a victory for ISC'

Karl Wilding, head of research at NCVO
News

Tribunal decision responses: Case is 'ultimately political' and 'not a victory for ISC'4

Governance | Tania Mason | 14 Oct 2011

The Upper Tribunal’s judgment in the public benefit case should not be seen as a victory for the Independent Schools Council, some sector commentators have said.

Karl Wilding (pictured), the NCVO’s head of research, said the real winners in the case are “charities and the public”.

Karl Wilding told civilsociety.co.uk that the claim of victory by the lawyers representing the Independent Schools Council is misplaced, because the true picture of the verdict is much more nuanced. The NCVO was an intervener in the case.

‘More clarity’

Wilding said: “Charities have won because they now have clarity about what to do on public benefit, and the public have won because this reinforces the fundamental principle that public benefit is what charity is about.”

“It’s also useful for charities because we now have concrete examples, in paragraph 196 of the judgment, of what you have to do to enable those that cannot afford the fees, to benefit from the service.”

He advised any charity that charges fees or is considering doing so, to read the judgment carefully. “The sector is struggling, and more and more organisations are moving to a fee-paying model,” he said. “Trustees now have a proper framework for making decisions.”

‘No clarity’

But law firm Stone King lamented the fact that the verdict “does not deliver the absolute clarification of charity law that many, including we at Stone King, had hoped for”.

Partner Jonathan Burchfield said: “We must first say that we do not regard this judgment as a ‘victory for the ISC’ in quite the way that some have already suggested.

“There is much in the judgment that supports the Charity Commission’s interpretation of the law and recognises the difficult role it was given by the Charities Act 2006. However, it is clear that the Commission’s guidance will need to be rewritten and to be less prescriptive than has been the case.”

He went on: “The Tribunal was at pains to emphasise that its decision will not please any of the parties.  There can ultimately be no clarity on all the questions arising without a political conclusion to what is a political debate - namely, whether independent schools should have the benefit of the fiscal advantages available to charities, not whether they are, legally, charities.”

‘A missed opportunity’

The Education Review Group, the other intervener in the hearing, described the decision as a “missed opportunity”.  It pointed out that the Tribunal described as “astonishing” the level of luxury provided by some schools and said it would have liked the Tribunal to go further in stating what schools should and should not do to prove they provide public benefit.

JAH
18 Oct 2011

I think the exchange above typifies the problem with this debate. People want the Charity Commission, and now the courts, to rule on the moral issue of whether an independent school deserves to be a charity. Neither of them has the power to do that, only parliament, so instead of blaming the participants and bemoaning the current state of affaries concentrate on lobbying MPs.

Stephen Lulsley
Independent Commentator and Consultant
17 Oct 2011

In my view, no fee-paying school should be allowed charitable status. If a fee-paying school wishes to offer free scholarships out of its profits, to exceptional pupils from underprivileged backgrounds, so be it, but why woudl they need to have charitable status to do so?

GA
Trustee
17 Oct 2011
Response to [Stephen Lulsley]

Could I rephrase your response
"In my view, no fee-paying opera should be allowed charitable status. If a fee-paying opera wishes to offer cheap tickets out of its profits, to [selected people] so be it, but why would they need to have charitable status to do so?"

Why is it so much worse for a charity to charge middle class parents for their education than to charge middle class toffs to visit the opera and still get charitable status?

Or what about care homes (charging for residential care like private companies do) or the National Trust (charging rich middle class visitors to see posh houses - like private owners do)

PS For the avoidance of doubt, I have no connection to any educational charity charging or otherwise!

Stephen Lulsley
Independent Commentator and Consultant
20 Oct 2011
Response to [GA]

Replying to GA, I think you miss my point. Most private schools are a business and have no charitable purposes whatsoever, so why are they allowed charitable status?

While many were set up by ancient guilds and more latterly by philanthropists in the 19th century, seeking to provide equal opportunity for the poor and disadvantaged, it seems to me that very few seem to now offer free scholarships and the like to those unable to pay.

40 years ago, my wife and her sister were both awarded free scholarships to an arts educational school in recognition of their exceptional talent. They both went on (my wife in particular) to signifIcant careers in the performing arts. This same school, which retains its charitable status, it seems no longer offers such scholarships/bursaries to any significant level if at all and is a significant profit making business.

For the record, I would also question opera houses and care homes having charitable status unless both were providing services and access to all including those who could not afford either otherwise.

As far as the National Trust is concerned, it is a totally different case. The NT may not be the most egalitarian organisation in the country and as a member, I disagree with much that it does. However, to suggest that it is only there to "charge rich middle class visitors to see posh houses - like private owners do" is patently untrue and ridiculous. Such houses are part of our history and national fabric; also, what about the miles and lies of coast and land which are being preserved for us all, rich and poor, to enjoy free of charge?

Comments

[Cancel] | Reply to:

Close »

Community Standards

The civilsociety.co.uk community and comments board is intended as a platform for informed and civilised debate.

We hope to encourage a broad range of views, however, there are standards that we expect commentators to uphold. We reserve the right to delete or amend any comments that do not adhere to these standards.

We welcome:

  • Robust but respectful debate
  • Strongly held opinions
  • Intelligent relevant discussion
  • The sharing of relevant experiences
  • New participants

We will not publish:

  • Rude, threatening, offensive, obscene or abusive language, or links to such material
  • Links to commercial organisations or spam postings. The comments board is not an advertising platform
  • The posting of contact details for yourself or others
  • Comments intended for malicious purpose or mindless abuse
  • Comments purporting to be from another person or organisation under false pretences
  • Gratuitous criticism, commentary or self-promotion
  • Any material which breaches copyright or privacy laws, or could be considered libellous
  • The use of the comments board for the pursuit or extension of personal disputes

Be aware:

  • Views expressed on the comments board are left at users’ discretion and are in no way views held or supported by Civil Society Media
  • Comments left by others may not be accurate, do not rely on them as fact
  • You may be misunderstood - sarcasm and humour can easily be taken out of context, try to be clear

Please:

  • Enjoy the opportunity to express your opinion and respect the right of others to express theirs
  • Confine your remarks to issues rather than personalities

Together we can keep our community a polite, respectful and intelligent platform for discussion.

Free eNews

Age UK spends £1.8m in latest round of redundancies

21 Oct 2014

Age UK spent £1.81m on 120 redundancies in 2014, on top of £1.17m last year, as part of a review of...

Stand Up To Cancer raises over £14.5m

21 Oct 2014

This weekend's Stand Up To Cancer event has raised over £14.5m so far, and that figure is continuing...

Charities 'must continue to fight for the right to influence policy'

20 Oct 2014

Civil society organisations must not give up the fight to influence policy and governments, the international...

Relationship between government and charity 'has lost its way', says Nandy

23 Oct 2014

There needs to be a rebalancing of the relationship between the voluntary sector and government, shadow...

SCVO criticises government ministers for ‘orchestrated attempt to undermine charity campaigning’

23 Oct 2014

Martin Sime, the chief executive of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, has accused government...

Charity Commission reverses decision not to register consumer helpline as charity

23 Oct 2014

The Charity Commission has reversed a decision to reject an application to register a consumer helpline...

BeatBullying's technology CIC has not filed accounts with Companies House

22 Oct 2014

A software community interest company set up by the BeatBullying Group in 2012 is almost a year late filing...

Blackbaud launches online giving platform for individual fundraisers

17 Oct 2014

Blackbaud has launched its online giving platform, everydayhero, for fundraisers in the UK in a bid to...

Don't dismiss social media 'slacktivists', fundraisers told at IFC

16 Oct 2014

Charities should embrace and love charity ‘slacktivists’ because social is a great ramp for new donors,...

Join the discussion

 Twitter button

@CSFinance