Third Sector at Large: Turn on, tune in and give evidence to the tribunal, man

Catholic care, Lord Phillips of Sudbury and the Big Lottery Fund are on our minds this week

Far out: oaths are uncool
Far out: oaths are uncool

- From the start, the charity tribunal has prided itself on informality - no wigs, gowns, bowing or scraping. But in the Catholic Care case last week it went one step further: when the necessary cards couldn't be found, the tribunal president, Alison McKenna, made the pragmatic decision to spare one witness from taking the oath. Next thing we know, they'll be turning up in kaftans and passing joints around.

- The bumf is already stacking up for the tribunal's seminal case in May when, reconfigured as the upper tribunal, it will consider the politically loaded business of the Charity Commission's guidance on public benefit and fee-charging schools. The fattest document so far is 33 pages from the NCVO, arguing that the commission has the right idea but the wrong method. The Charity Commision manages only 22 pages, but they contain 95 meaty points from its redoubtable, long-serving top legal officer, Kenneth Dibble (not to be confused with Officer Dibble in the Top Cat cartoons). It's going to be a brilliant showdown.

- To conclude the legal theme: Lord Phillips of Sudbury, the veteran charity lawyer who acquired the common touch as Legal Eagle on The Jimmy Young Show on Radio 2, fumes that the new Charities Bill, which consolidates all the earlier stuff, is longer than the entire legislative output of 1905. Even he wasn't around at the time, of course - he looked it up.

- Charity bids for public sector contracts might not be measured as scientifically as civil servants would have us believe. Ian Charlesworth, commercial director of the Social Investment Business, recalls putting in bids for 19 identical regional contracts when he was chief executive of the Shaw Trust. Two key questions were the same on all tenders, as were the answers. In 13 cases the bids received the top score of five, one received a middling mark and the rest scored either no marks or one. Bit of a lottery, one might say.

- Talking of which, Sir Clive Booth retired as chair of the Big Lottery Fund last November, and the deputy chair, Anna Southall, is keeping the seat warm - if that is the right metaphor. The first recruitment round was aborted after responsibility for the BLF was moved from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to the Cabinet Office: the second round was meant to produce an announcement weeks ago, but didn't. Bureaucrats silent, applicants bemused - in other words, snafu.

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