Shadow charities minister plans a review of the Charity Commission to ‘get back to basics’

06 Oct 2020 News

Rachael Maskell MP, the Labour shadow minister for the voluntary sector and charities, said yesterday that she will carry out a review of the Charity Commission.

Maskell was speaking at the Association of Charitable Organisations’ annual conference on a panel discussing the road ahead for the charity sector.

She said: “We need to really think what the point of the Commission is, and get back to basics.”

Maskell said it is important that the regulator is properly resourced and that charities are being supported.

“I think it has a role of protecting the public, and it is absolutely vital that it sustains that role and it is resourced. This is something which I think the public and charities really do value. Beyond that, I think the Commission also has a role of identifying and advocating, on behalf of organisations, the trends that it sees,” she explained.

She added: “I am going to be carrying out a review of the Charity Commission because I think it is time that we actually went back to the sector to say ‘how do you feel the Commission needs to operate into the future generation’, and also when we are thinking about the resilience of organisations at this time I think organisations need to know that someone has got their back. 

“Whether that comes directly from the Commission or it comes from a body working alongside it, that is a question I want to put back to the sector because I think the reality is we want organisations to succeed, and sometimes it feels the inspectorate, which clearly has a regulatory role, does not always really push the boundaries to make sure organisations are a great success.”

She did not give any further details about what the next steps for the review will be. 

‘Part of the problem with the Commission is that the leadership is a political appointment’

The Commission’s chair, Baroness Stowell, recently caused controversy when she claimed that the government and the public expect “more humility and accountability” from charities.

Speaking subsequently at the ACO's conference, Debra Allcock Tyler, chief executive of DSC, said: “I am a massive fan of the Charity Commission, I have adored them the whole time I have been in the sector. The staff are incredible.”

She continued: “The problem with the Commission is not the staff, it is the leadership. The leadership is absolutely abysmal at the moment. The Charity Commission has completely misunderstood what the role of the Commission is actually about. It is not to tell charities that we have to be popular with the public, and in fact we cannot be because an enormous number of charities the public do not think should exist at all.”

Allcock Tyler said: “It is not our job to be popular with the public and it is not the job of the Charity Commission to tell us that we need to be popular with the public.”

She added: “We work really closely at DSC with the Commission, we have to because of all the research that we do we rely very heavily on their data, and so my team has good relationships further down. Our relationships at the leadership level are absolutely abysmal.”

She called for reform to the Charity Commission's governance. Currently its chair is appointed by the culture secretary, and the last three chairs have all been criticised over their links to politicians. 

“Part of the problem with the Commission is that the leadership is a political appointment, and that has to stop,” Allcock Tyler said.

She argued that the regulator would be more effective “if it is not led or diverted by who loyalties are with”, and concluded: “The real, sad, truth is that the credibility of the Commission is at an all-time low. It is not because of the staff, it is because of the leadership.”

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