Charity Commission does not know how many charities pay trustees

08 Mar 2017 News

Charity Commission building

Fergus Burnett

The Charity Commission does not know how many charities currently pay their trustees, or how many it has allowed to do so, but it is considering asking about it on a future iteration on the annual return form. 

The commission was able to show that in a 13-month period to September last year, it had received roughly 27 applications a month to amend trustee payment clauses. But it said many of these charities were simply updating their corporate documents and did not necessarily plan to make payments.

Most trustees are volunteers, but if in some circumstances the commission will give permission for trustees to be paid and some charities’ governing documents enable them to pay trustees.

Last year William Shawcross, chair of the commission, indicated that the regulator looked “sympathetically” on applications to pay trustees. 

Some charity sector figures have argued that relaxing the rules about paying trustees would help to encourage diversity and improve professionalism in the charity sector. 

But the total number of paid trustees is unknown because it has not been recorded by the regulator. 

In response to a request under the Freedom of Information Act by Civil Society News, the commission said that it could not reveal how many people are paid trustees because: “The commission does not record permission to pay trustees as an attribute of charities on any of its systems so this information is not held.” 

The commission also declined to release the names of applicants, and how many were successful. It cited the section 12 exemption, which means that collating the information would cost too much. 

Considering adding question to the annual return 

But a commission spokeswoman said that the regulator was looking at how to include a question in the next stage of its wide-ranging review of the information collected via the annual return. 

She said: "Over the next two years, we are fundamentally reviewing the content and structure of the annual return, looking at whether we are collecting the right information about charities to allow us to regulate effectively, and to ensure appropriate public transparency and accountability. 

“We are also reviewing how information about charities appears on the online register. 

“As part of that, we are mindful of the need to balance public trust and confidence and transparency with the need for proportionality in the regulatory burden we place on charities. 

“The first stage of that review is currently subject to a consultation. 

“As part of the next stage of that wider review, we are considering including a question about trustee payments. We will always consult before making changes to the content of the Annual Return.”


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