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Charity Commission needs a 'more sophisticated range' of available sanctions, its head of policy says

Jane Hobson tells the Westminster Social Policy Forum the law is not working properly because the regulator has only limited powers over matters such as late filing of accounts and trustee disqualification

Jane Hobson
Jane Hobson

The Charity Commission should have "a more sophisticated range of sanctions" available to it, according to Jane Hobson, its head of policy.

Speaking yesterday to an audience of charity representatives at the Westminster Social Policy Forum in London, Hobson said that "the current law doesn’t operate efficiently" because the commission only had a small number of sanctions which were linked to a statutory framework and were "too heavy-handed".

She said the commission would like to have more sanctions for charities that filed their accounts late, possibly including the removal of Gift Aid. She also said that she would like to see changes to the disqualification regime for trustees.

Jane Tully, head of policy at the Charity Finance Group, had earlier criticised proposals to punish charities that filed late by removing their right to Gift Aid.

"Most of Lord Hodgson’s proposals have a solid foundation, but this falls at the first hurdle," she said. "For one thing, it’s inequitable. Only one in five charities claim Gift Aid. Different charities claim different amounts. Why should some charities be punished more than others?

"Also, it simply wouldn’t work, because it would need a high level of communication between the commission and HM Revenue & Customs."

She said that if the two organisations could successfully communicate about Gift Aid, then they should also be able to communicate about more important issues such as "joint regulation and registration".

Tully said that the CFG was not necessarily opposed to the idea of fining charities for late filing, but would "urge caution" before going ahead with the idea. If fining for late filing did go ahead, she said, it should not be used as a revenue generator for the commission.


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