Charities Act Review: Complaints and the charity tribunal

A summary of the main proposals, with sector reaction and an assessment of what's likely to happen

Charity Tribunal
Charity Tribunal

Main proposals on complaints and the charity tribunal

- The complex Schedule 6 of the Charities Act 2011, specifying which actions and decisions of the Charity Commission can be the subject of appeals to the charity tribunal, should be abolished.

- A new system should be put in place to allow a right of review of any commission decision or action, which would consider whether it was properly executed, and a right of appeal against any legal decision, which would consider the substance of the decision.

- The Charity Commission, rather than the tribunal, should have the power to decide whether it is appropriate for trustees to use charitable funds to pay for legal action.

- The commission should be allowed to refer matters of charity law to the tribunal without the consent of the Attorney-General.

- There is no need for a charities ombudsman.

Sector reaction

The specialist charity law firm Bates Wells & Braithwaite welcomes the proposed abolition of the schedule and endorses Hodgson's concern that "the charity tribunal is too remote from developments in society and modern economic trends". Tom Murdoch of the solicitors Stone King says the proposal for a replacement of Schedule 6 to the Charities Act 2011 is helpful: "It is important that charities and other people affected can have broader recourse to the tribunal than was previously the case."

The Charity Commission says it will produce a considered response soon and that its series of autumn seminars will look at Hodgson's proposals, including the extension of the tribunal's scope. In its response to the Hodgson review in April, it opposed the abolition of Schedule 6. It also proposed it should be able to refer matters to the tribunal without the consent of the Attorney-General.

What's likely to happen?

The Office for Civil Society wants to gauge reactions to legal questions from the sector and charity lawyers before deciding whether to act. Anything requiring primary legislation would be unlikely: abolishing the schedule could be done by ministerial order.

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