The Charity Commission is not adequately resourced to meet regulatory challenges, but charging for regulation is not the answer, a former Charity Commissioner has said today in an open letter.
In open letter to Baroness Stowell, published today, Andrew Purkis sets out his reasons against charging charities a fee. Purkis is writing in his role as a trustee of the Directory of Social Change, a sector infrastructure body. Both Purkis and DSC have been longstanding opponents of plans to charities paying for regulation.
The reasons for opposing a levy on charities includes the need for additional legislation, the fact that any new system would create administrative burdens, and the concern that if only larger charities pay a levy it could create a perception of a two-tiered system.
The letter said: “We believe this whole issue needs to be rethought from fundamental principles. Namely, how can we achieve a sufficient level of predictable funding to support the Charity Commission’s vital work, in a way that enhances rather than risks its independence, and which is fair to charities (and their distinctive role in society) and the donating public?”
It called for parliament to have a greater say in how the Commission’s budget it determined.
Purkis' view is echoed by DSC’s head of policy Jay Kennedy, who said in a statement accompanying the letter: “It’s increasingly clear that the Charity Commission is not adequately resourced to meet the regulatory challenges it faces.”
He added that: “There are good reasons why the Charity Commission answers to parliament, not a minister or the government of the day – because its independence is critical. We need to explore ways of giving parliament more of a binding say in how its budget is determined. This could give the Commission more and potentially more stable funding in future.”
Earlier this week a Civil Society Voices analysis highlighted that the Commission is struggling to keep up with an increasing caseload on its current funding settlement. This has led to some examples of people waiting up to five years for meaningful progress after reporting regulatory concerns, while the average time it takes the Commission to complete a statutory inquiry is now more than one year.
NCVO has warned that continued delays have implications for public trust. Elizabeth Chamberlain, head of policy and public services, said: “It’s no secret that the Commission’s resources are spread thinly, but concerns about charities allowed to go months or even years without any apparent progress present a clear threat to public trust in charities and their regulation.”
Vicky Browning, chief executive of Acevo, said: “It is clear that the Charity Commission needs additional resource from the government to enable it to provide support and efficient, robust regulation.”