Sketch: Charity Commission's new register

As the Charity Commission goes in to bat with its new register, a man from the crowd bowls a googly.

The Charity Commission's register of charities gets 15 million page impressions a year, but which charity was the first to be searched on the new £225,000 all-colour site when it went live last week? Commission techies invited the 50 or so people at the regulator's annual public meeting last week to throw some names out during a special preview of the site. Would they choose Cancer Research UK? Oxfam? The National Trust?

"Brogdale Horticultural Trust," called out a man called Jeff, who said he was "involved with several charities". This Kent-based trust, Third Sector later discovered, is home to something called the national fruit collection, which includes 2,300 varieties of apple, including the Knobby Russet, and 550 varieties of pear.

As Mark Pinfold, head of charity information at the commission, keyed in the charity's name, people clapped, as if this moment was up there with the first moon landing. "Be careful with your applause," deadpanned Jeff.

Two pie charts swirled into view on a big screen showing the trust's income and expenditure. The information was encased in a green border, showing the accounts had been filed on time. Pinfold praised its compliance record but said the charity had "a lot of money hanging around in the bank".

But Jeff had bowled him a googly. Brogdale Horticultural Trust no longer exists. "It went under in April because it lost a contract from Defra," said Jeff. He added that the list of trustees showed a person who hadn't been there for years. Pinfold responded that the graphics were only as good as the information that charities supplied.

It was an inauspicious start, but after further testing most people agreed the new site was rather impressive - although debate on the wisdom of naming and shaming late accounts filers was curiously lacking.

Pinfold told us this was a test site and the real thing would be ready to peruse "over cornflakes" the following morning. By 9.30am the flakes had gone soggy and the old register, now looking unbearably dated, was still there.

A commission spokeswoman told us that the plan had always been for a 10am start. That passed; still no change. "Unforeseen circumstances," she said. Finally, at about 11.30am, the old era was swept away by a magical wonderland of purple bars, green pies and red and green borders.

The future had arrived, and the millions checking the register will now, as commission chair Dame Suzi Leather put it, see charities with "warts and all".

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