William Shawcross, chair of the Charity Commission, has warned that the regulator does not “have enough funding to support its future needs” without asking charities to contribute directly.
He was speaking at the regulator’s annual public meeting yesterday, and said that in his last year as chair he was determined to secure more funding for the commission, but said he realised that the concept of charging charities was something that some in the sector are struggling with.
Shawcross said the commission’s budget has been halved in real terms and that it was operating on a “shoestring”.
“I can’t leave the commission without trying to improve its long-term financial sustainability,” he said. “We simply don’t have enough funding to support future needs.”
Shawcross said that those running the commission have always “agitated for more for more powers and more money” and that he has “been no exception”.
But he said that in times of austerity it was unlikely to be awarded government funding - in fact he said that the Treasury “asked us to look at the possibility” of charging charities for registration when it gave the commission a one-off £8m grant to carry out its transformation programme.
‘Not an easy conversation’
He admitted that charging for regulation was being perceived as “something quite revolutionary” and that for some it was a “not an easy conversation” and that “some will not welcome it”.
But he said that a couple of people had come up to him in the day and said that they agreed with the idea.
He said the formal consultation would start “very soon”.
Last year Shawcross revealed that he had been talking to the government about “raising £5m in the next two years, with sector agreement”. He also said he wanted smaller charities to be exempt from the charge, and indicated that this would mean charities with an income under £20,000.
Revised statement of regulatory approach
Paula Sussex, chief executive of the commission, unveiled the commission’s revised statement of regulatory approach, which was published on its website yesterday.
She said in the early years of the regulator’s current strategy there had been a “focus on compliance work” and that the revised statement is part of the regulator's attempt to place more emphasis on its enabling role.
Sussex also said that the commission had established a new risk assessment unit to support its compliance work and is trying to make its services more “user friendly”. Improving its digital services was part of that.
David Holdsworth, chief operating officer and registrar, said that from April charities will be able to update their governing document and change their name online and that the commission’s online portal for trustees would launch in 2017.
For more on the Commission’s digital transformation programme, subscribers can read and interview with Holdsworth that was published in this month’s issue of Governance & Leadership magazine.
'Flagship piece of research on trustees coming soon'
Sarah Atkinson, director of policy and communications, said that a piece of research about trustees that the commission had worked on with the Cranfield Trust and Cass Business School will be published either at the end of this financial year or the beginning of the new one - effectively March or April.
She said it will help the sector to "lift its game".
"It is very useful for us but even more useful for you," she said.
She added that the aim is to "share every element of the the data and every element of the learning" and that it "real flagship piece of work".