Sir Stephen Bubb says Acevo will reject NCVO's 'register of political interests' idea

The chief executives group says its members described the proposal - aimed at improving transparency in campaigning - as horrific, laughable and unworkable

Sir Stephen Bubb
Sir Stephen Bubb

The charity leaders group Acevo has said it will "respond robustly" to a National Council for Voluntary Organisations proposal that charities should consider publishing details of the political affiliations of their senior staff and trustees.

In December, the NCVO published a draft document called Upholding Charities’ Independence and Reputation, containing a number of recommendations on best practice for transparency in campaigning.

This included the suggestion that charities might consider publishing a register of interests that includes the party political ties of senior staff and trustees.

In an email sent to its membership yesterday, Sir Stephen Bubb, chief executive of Acevo, wrote: "Thank you for your strong responses to the proposal to require charities to publish the details of the political affiliations of senior staff. Views ranged from ‘horrific’ and ‘laughable’ to ‘unworkable’. Acevo will respond robustly to the NCVO consultation to reject this particular proposal."

Bubb suggests members respond to the consultation, which is likely to end in mid-February, before potential revisions are made to a final version for use in the lead-up to the general election in May.

The NCVO declined to comment on Acevo’s email, but speaking to Third Sector last week, Elizabeth Chamberlain, policy manager at the NCVO, said she was aware that some of its proposals, this one included, could prove controversial, although she stressed that the proposals were still only at draft phase.

Chamberlain said: "It would be damaging if the sector can’t see the intention behind the recommendation and that we’re trying to be helpful. It’s not about preventing people from having this aspect of their life, but asking them to declare it so the charity can consider its implications on a case-by-case basis."

The NCVO’s proposals make it clear that the publication of a register of political and other registers would be at the discretion of individual trustees, rather than a mandatory requirement. Two pieces of guidance from the Charity Commission address the issue of charity staff or trustees having political membership or views: CC9 on campaigning and political activity, which says trustees "must not allow the charity to be used as a vehicle for the expression of the political views of any individual trustee or staff member", and CC29 on conflicts of interests, which says boards should "require conflicted trustees to declare their interest at an early stage and, in most cases, withdraw from relevant meetings, discussions, decision-making and votes".

For more reactions to the NCVO proposal, see the February edition of Third Sector, out in print and online later this week.

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