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Governance of Charity Commission criticised in Lords committee

07 Dec 2016 News

William Shawcross, chair of the Charity Commission

The Charity Commission board was criticised yesterday for lacking diversity and transparency, during a Lords select committee hearing scrutinising the charity sector.

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock, a Labour member of the committee, asked William Shawcross, chair of the Charity Commission, why the regulator's board was not more diverse - a question Shawcross said was "grossly unfair".

Foulkes said: “If someone was to describe your board as a fairly right-wing, upper middle-class, white, middle-aged group of people from the south of England, would that be unfair? You’ve no black people, no one living north of the Wash, no young people.

“Why are there no black or minority ethnic people on the board? Would it not have been better to try and recruit someone from the black and minority ethnic communities? You don’t seem to have done very much to get one.

“Which of your trustees is under 50? I don’t think any of them are.”

He also questioned whether “previous experience in the charity sector” had been a high enough priority in recruitment.

Lord Rooker, another Labour peer, questioned whether Charity Commission board meetings were sufficiently transparent. He asked why the regulator did not meet in public.

“I think we’re very transparent,” Shawcross said.

Click here to view an extract of Lord Foulkes' questions on the board's diversity. 

Commission looks to be fully funded by charities

Shawcross told the committee that it was his ambition to “relieve the burden on the taxpayer” of funding the Charity Commission. He said that initially he expected to raise £5m from the sector, but did not expect to charge small charities for registration.

The Commission has already said it will consult on charging.

“It has been made clear to me that we should try to reduce the burden on the taxpayer,” Shawcross said. “I will go out much more consistently from January to argue that if they want a well-financed and consistent regulator they must pay for some of that themselves.”

He said that he did not expect any change in accountability of the regulator as a result.

Redundancies expected

Shawcross said that the Commission had a flat settlement of just over £20m and that as inflation took effect, this would inevitably lead to redundancies. He said that he expected the regulator would have to cut ten or 12 posts next year.

“At some point the continued attrition and salami-slicing would make it impossible for us to carry out our duties,” he said.

At the same time, he said, the number of applications for charity status was rising.

“The number of applications for registrations of new charities keeps on growing,” he said. “It was 5,000 a year a few years ago and it’s now 8,000 a year.”

The full video can be viewed here. 

An earlier version of this article mistakenly said Gwythian Prins had written an article about the EU for the Henry Jackson Society. In fact his article was for the IEA. Apologies.


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