Interview: Sam Younger

On his first day as chief executive of the Charity Commission, he talks to Third Sector about austerity measures, public confidence and the watchdog's dual role

The Charity Commission's Sam Younger
The Charity Commission's Sam Younger

The Charity Commission will undergo a root-and-branch review of its work to take account of government cuts, according to Sam Younger, its new chief executive.

Younger, who succeeded Andrew Hind last week, said the regulator needed to reduce its costs to cope with an anticipated reduction of up to a third in its funding from the government.

"It is simply not an option to have business as usual, give or take a little bit," he told Third Sector. "We can't just adjust the status quo. We need to look at what the critical functions of the commission are and use that as the basis for deciding how it should organise itself."

The two most critical functions, Younger said, were maintaining the register of charities and carrying out compliance work by providing advice and guidance and investigating complaints.

"I hope to enhance the quality of the register," he said. "A great deal of the public's confidence in charities comes from being able to look up information about them."

But he said that compliance work might be reduced in scale: "I know that cutting back on our compliance work will force charities to pick up the tab by employing accountants or lawyers to advise them instead, but we might not have much choice about it."

The review is part of Younger's agenda of preparing the commission for a smaller role. "We aren't going to be able to do everything that everybody - ourselves included - thinks we should do," he said.

He said he did not yet know how much government funding the commission would receive over the next few years, but he was making a "broad assumption" that it would be between a quarter and a third. This was based on the government's statements about reductions in spending on other non-departmental public bodies.

But he said he hoped the commission could maintain a good balance between supporting charities with advice and guidance, and taking action against rule-breakers.

"There is a real value in having that dual role," he said. "A regulator needs to have an interest in making the sector vibrant and effective, as well as being able to crack down when things go wrong."

CV

2010: Interim chief executive, Bell Educational Trust
2009: Interim chief executive, Shelter
2001: Chair, Electoral Commission
1999: Director-general, British Red Cross
1994: Managing director, BBC World Service

 

Younger also discusses where cuts might be made to the Charity Commission's services here.


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