The Association of Charitable Organisations (ACO) has criticised the Charity Commission for forcing its members to waste time and money on the Charity Tribunal case being heard in London this week.
Shortly after the case began this morning ACO chief executive Dominic Fox (pictured) told civilsociety.co.uk that the Commission’s decision to bring the case now, in such a time of austerity, was “ill-judged and misguided”.
“A lot of time and money has been spent confirming the status quo,” he said, “time and money that ACO members could have better used helping people in need.
“We hope this will be the last unnecessary public benefit case put before the Charity Tribunal.
“It is time the Charity Commission began focusing its resources on regulating malpractice, not alienating its supporters in the charity sector.”
Twenty ACO members are represented in the case.
Fox added that the Attorney General agrees with his members on all questions that arise out of the reference made to the Tribunal, which demonstrates how unnecessary the case is.
The Commission asked the Attorney General to make the reference in order to clarify the law regarding public benefit for benevolent funds that exist to help certain groups of people, such as members of a family or former employees of a company.
The proceedings are not adversarial and the Charity Commission is not advocating a particular view of the law. It simply wishes to clarify the effects of the Charities Act 2006.
The case began before Mr Justice Warren and Judge Alison McKenna this morning with no less than eight barristers representing various ACO members and the Attorney General.
Invited to respond to the ACO's criticism, a Charity Commission spokeswoman pointed out that it was actually the Attorney General who had made the reference to the Tribunal, albeit at the request of the regulator. She also said it was not a foregone conclusion that the Tribunal's judgment would confirm the status quo, adding "that's why we want it clarified".