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Government 'hypocritical' to reject Hodgson trustee payment proposal, Acevo says

Sir Stephen Bubb, head of the chief executives body, says the decision is offensive to charities that want to pay trustees, but the NCVO and Navca welcome Nick Hurd's interim response

Sir Stephen Bubb
Sir Stephen Bubb

The chief executives body Acevo has said the government’s decision not to accept Lord Hodgson’s proposal on trustee payment is a "failure of leadership".

Nick Hurd, the Minister for Civil Society, said today that he would not take up Hodgson’s proposal, made in his review of the Charities Act 2006, that charities with incomes of more than £1m a year should be allowed to pay their trustees without Charity Commission consent.

But Sir Stephen Bubb, chief executive of Acevo, said the government had "wimped out", and he accused it of hypocrisy.

He said the decision was "a simple failure of leadership, dressed up with a logic that is both flawed and offensive to the charities that want to pay their trustees. It is sheer hypocrisy to say it wants to slash red tape and then stop charities deciding themselves whether to pay trustees."

Bubb said it was offensive for the government to take a line that suggested that unpaid trusteeship was a defining characteristic of charities.

"Mr Hurd had a chance to accept Hodgson and free trustee boards to adapt to 21st century governance – he has wimped out," said Bubb.

But other umbrella bodies, including the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, welcomed Hurd’s comments.

"The minister’s interim response is very welcome," said Sir Stuart Etherington, chief executive of the NCVO. "In particular, I am pleased to see the minister is minded to reject automatic payment of trustees. NCVO’s members have been clear with us that voluntarism is a defining characteristic of charity and is crucial to upholding public trust."

There was also support from the local infrastructure body Navca, which said it was in broad agreement with the government’s interim response.

"Nick Hurd has shown himself to be a thoughtful politician with this response," said Joe Irvin, chief executive of Navca. "Common sense has prevailed over the issue of paid trustees. The vast majority of people oppose paid trustees. It is a solution to a problem that does not exist."

Both the NCVO and Navca said they agreed with Hurd’s decision not to raise the annual income threshold for charitable registration from £5,000 to £25,000, saying it would have put an unfair burden on small charities.

Wendy Mitchell, head of policy at the Charity Retail Association, welcomed Hurd’s decision not to implement Hodgson’s proposal to abolish national exemption orders, which enable charities to do house-to-house collections without local licences. She said it would be "problematic and costly to abolish NEOs".

"We welcome Nick Hurd’s statement that the government is not going to increase the regulatory burden for charities in relation to house-to-house collections," she said. "The association hopes the government will also consider how to reduce unnecessary bureaucracy in the licensing system for those charities without NEOs, in line with its other efforts to minimise red tape for the third sector."

Mubeen Bhutta, policy manager at the British Heart Foundation, said: "What a relief to see that national exemption orders will not be abolished. If they had been swept aside it would have placed a huge new burden on both charities and local authorities and taken vital funds away from the fight against heart disease.

"Now we can look forward to working with the government to ensure the existing system works as well as it can for everyone."

Peter Lewis, chief executive of the Institute of Fundraising, also welcomed Hurd's decision on NEOs. "The IoF is working with charities, sector bodies and local authority representatives to look at alternative mechanisms that will work for charities and councils," he said.

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