STRATEGY UNIT REPORT: Information Return to clarify work and funds expenditure

The Strategy Unit report makes clear the Government's unhappiness with what it sees as a lack of openness by charities and insufficient provision of information about how they work and raise funds. "Credible comparative information about impact is particularly lacking,

it says.

The report recommends that charities with income over £1 million will have to complete a two-page Standard Information Return each year, which will ask questions on performance measurement, impact and stakeholder involvement. Fundraising ratios will have to be included, but with an opportunity to explain these.

Umbrella organisations are pleased that the Government has pulled back from the idea of league tables that had been discussed. However, ACEVO chief executive Stephen Bubb warned: "We don't want this to be a bureaucrats charter.

Gaynor Humphries, director of the Community Foundation Network, said the provision of standardised information would need to be carefully thought out to prevent it from becoming a "blunt instrument".

The information return would be subject to audit, but the Government is undecided about what form this should take. It recognises that there would be a cost involved, but Cabinet Office officials argue that a loss of public confidence in charities, which this measure is intended to help prevent, would prove more costly.

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