The Charity Commission has warned the RSPCA that it must improve its governance with "necessary urgency" or face "further regulatory action", and said it will formally monitor the charity to ensure it makes changes.
The warning follows a period which saw its chief executive leave, and comes in response to a crucial governance review, published today.
Last year the Commission instructed the charity to review its governance, following a period where it had been without a chief executive for two years. During the period of review, the charity appointed a new chief executive, Jeremy Cooper, but Cooper left with immediate effect last week, sparking a fresh round of interest from national media, with the Times describing the charity as “in turmoil”.
A Commission spokeswoman said: “The governance of the RSPCA remains below that which we expect in a modern charity and we are concerned about the impact on public confidence.
“This has been brought into focus by the departure of the CEO and the clear recommendations of the charity’s independent governance review, which the Commission requested the charity carry out.
"We have written to the charity to make clear that we expect to see a swift action plan against these recommendations, which we will formally monitor, in order to resolve these issues. We will consider what further regulatory action may be required should improvements not be made with the necessary urgency.”
The statement is the second warning from the Commission in as many days. Yesterday it warned that the RSPCA's governance must be "brought up to standard", but it has now ramped up the pressure with a second, stronger warning.
In a statement the RSPCA said it was committed to good governance and that it is taking steps to implement its recommendations.
The charity said: “The council of the RSPCA is committed to the very highest levels of governance. As such, an independent expert review of the Society's existing governance arrangements was commissioned to ensure they are as effective as possible and in line with best practice.
“Whilst we are pleased that the review has recognised that the RSPCA is financially stable, is delivering on its important mission and has set in place measures to manage compliance and risk, we are not complacent.
“The review has highlighted a number of improvement opportunities and we are already taking steps to implement the recommendations. We believe that this will put the RSPCA in a stronger position to deliver its strategy and vision of working to prevent cruelty and alleviate suffering of animals."
A a detailed synopsis of the review has just been published on the RSPCA's website. It recommends a number changes - Civil Society News will have the full story later.