John Williams, vice chair of the Association of Chairs, has said that it is “extraordinary” that the Charity Commission does not recognise chairs as anything other than trustees.
Williams was speaking at the ICAEW’s annual conference for the charity sector on Shaping the future of the charity landscape, in a session called ‘Charities under scrutiny: new challenges for trustee boards’.
He said that the lack of guidance specific to chairs from the regulator is part of the reason why the Association of Chairs was set up in 2013.
Williams said: “The Charity Commission doesn’t really recognise chairs at all, it is rather extraordinary thing. There is CC3 - the essential trustee, but there is no essential chair.”
He said that being a chair is “a tough job and chairs tell us it is a very lonely job”.
He said: “It is pretty tough being a trustee but if you are at the head of all those governance pressures it is even harder.”
The new normal
Williams also told the finance professionals in attendance that the perceived drop in public trust towards charities and the heightened negative coverage in the tabloids “isn’t going away”, and it will just be case of making sure public trust doesn’t drop further.
He said: “This is something that is here with us, I say this as someone that has advised companies over many years, this isn’t going away. This isn’t a dip that we will return to normal. It will not be a question of restoring trust but actually, I think, preventing trust in charities slipping backwards further. This is going to be a constant war of attrition with all the stakeholders.
“But if it won’t go back we have to accept this as the new normal. It is very frustrating but this is the real world. I always used to say that charities and charity was like the Queen Mother, one of those things in British life that you couldn’t challenge. People only wrote good things about it and thought nice things of it. The sad thing is that we have lost that now.”
He said that this “new normal” will include tighter regulations, a more robust Charity Commission with a “tougher and clearer” CC3, and imminent tougher fundraising regulations.