Commission launches 'revolutionary' new register

The Charity Commission's newly designed £225,000 register of charities will revolutionise the way people view charities, according to Dame Suzi Leather, chair of the commission.

"This is the sector, warts and all," she told the commission's fourth annual public meeting, held in London last night. "It is absolutely extraordinary what this is providing and what spotlight it shines on the sector.

"I don't think it's going to be a huge tabloid story alongside global financial meltdown. But it is a real revolution."

The register, which lists the financial details of every charity, is the most popular page on the commission's website, receiving around 15 million page impressions a year.

The new site, which was due to go live this morning, shames charities that do not file their accounts on time by highlighting their financial details with a red border until they eventually do file.

A demonstration of the new site was given at last night's public meeting, which was attended by about 50 people.

Andrew Hind, chief executive of the commission, told the meeting that recent attempts to modernise the regulator had led to greater awareness of the organisation and had enhanced public trust.

"This was not an organisation winning awards when we started this process of change," he said.

He said the new board had "massively enhanced the competency of the organisation" and most people now recognised the commission's "ability to operate as adviser and regulator".

But he criticised charities that filed their accounts late. "Too many small and medium-sized charities are still not taking their performance in this area as seriously as they should do," he said.

During the question and answer session, Dr John Higgs, secretary of grant-giving charity the Joseph Rank Trust, suggested the commission considered generating its own income by charging charities for filing their accounts. "I'm sure we would be willing to pay £15," he said.

Hind said it was "something that over time we might have to look at in more detail".

But he reacted cautiously to suggestions that the regulator should do more to help charities struggling in the economic recession.

Hind said it wasn't the regulator's role to campaign on behalf of charities. But he added: "Where we can identify good practice coming out of this financial turmoil, we will try to make sure that the commission does that.

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