The Charity Commission has concluded that the charitable think tank the Institute for Public Policy Research "exposed itself to the perception that it supported the development of Labour Party policy" when it launched a document earlier this year.
A Charity Commission operational compliance case report, published yesterday, says that the regulator opened a case after it received a complaint that the IPPR had supported a political party and had worked closely with the Labour Party on the report, The Condition of Britain.
The IPPR report, which was launched by Ed Miliband, leader of the Labour Party, attracted widespread media coverage, and was described by the IPPR as "offering a comprehensive assessment of the state of British society after the crash and setting out an ambitious programme of social renewal in these tough times".
The complainant is not named in the commission’s report, but Charlie Elphicke, the Conservative MP for Dover and Deal, complained to the regulator in June about the IPPR’s work on the report.
According to the report, the regulator found that the Condition of Britain report was commissioned independently by the charity, was not funded by or carried out at the request of a political party, and advanced charitable purposes to educate the public.
But it says that the regulator concluded that the charity "exposed itself to the perception that it supported the development of Labour Party policy".
This was because the charity had close involvement with the Labour Party and its representatives throughout the two-year project. The emerging findings of the research were made available to the Labour Party on request, although the report says the charity would have made them available to any political party had they made a similar request.
It also says that "while the charity naturally wanted a high-profile figure to launch the policy to gain maximum publicity, the final launch event was used as an opportunity and platform for Labour Party policies to be announced".
The report says the charity explained to the commission its consideration of the risks and how it worked generally to protect its independence.
"Politicians from the Conservative Party and Liberal Democrats have announced policies at the charity’s events and it has made its emerging findings available on other research projects to both of these parties," it says.
"Nevertheless, we consider that, given the extent of the media exposure, the public perception of the charity’s independence could have been adversely affected. It could therefore look further at the procedures it has in place for safeguarding its independence."
The report says that the commission provided the IPPR with regulatory advice and that its trustees have looked further at their procedures to safeguard their independence and ensure political neutrality.
The commission also looked into an allegation that the IPPR received donations from the Trade Union Congress and published a report calling for more trade union power.
The report says the IPPR received three grants from the TUC totalling £37,350 in 2013. But these were for separate reports on tax reform, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development labour markets and commercial energy efficiency, which were in furtherance of the charity’s objects.
The commission found no evidence that the charity had been commissioned by the TUC to undertake work on trade union power.
An IPPR spokesman said: "We welcome the finding by the Charity Commission that our work is editorially independent and advances charitable purposes, and the recognition that we work with all political parties. We will take forward their advice to ourselves and other think tanks on how to ensure the perception of political independence in future."