Stephen Cook: Shawcross limbers up for three more years

But despite having the confidence of the government, the chair of the Charity Commission does not enjoy the full support of the sector, writes the editor of Third Sector

Stephen Cook
Stephen Cook

The Charity Commission has been living through interesting times, and at the heart of them is William Shawcross, its controversial chair for the past three years.

He clearly enjoys the confidence of the government, but charities that would prefer a more supportive regulator are equivocal about him. Their reservations centre on his prioritisation of robust regulation at the expense of help and advice, and on his propensity to take critical ruminations about the sector for a walk in interviews with the right-leaning national newspapers.

He declined to be interviewed by Third Sector, except by email, so our profile of him draws widely on views other than his own. His second term in office is about to begin and, with charging for regulation and charity campaigning on the agenda, it should be as interesting as the first.

Of more immediate interest, of course, is the welcome recommendation by Sir Stuart Etherington that a new, universal fundraising regulator should be created in place of the Fundraising Standards Board and that it should take charge of the Code of Fundraising Practice instead of the Institute of Fundraising.

Also exercising minds is the government's pledge, rushed out at a wobbly moment in the election campaign, to introduce a right to buy for tenants of housing associations. A rearguard action against this clumsy proposal is being fought by charities behind the scenes, as Andy Hillier describes in his feature. Is this the new parliament's equivalent of the lobbying act?

Finally, take a look at the results of the Third Sector Awards. They provide a pleasant antidote to all the criticism of charities in recent months. The veteran Labour MP Frank Field recently called charities the red corpuscles in the bloodstream of society: the awards provide a showcase of what he means.

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