At Work: Law and Governance - Regulation with Rosie

The Charity Commission's Rosie Chapman on how to handle political opposition.

Recent by-election results have shown how swiftly the local political landscape can change. Of course, charities that work with local councils have to be flexible when these changes happen and can't indulge in political partisanship. But what of charities that explicitly support the diversity of local communities faced with candidates or councillors whose political platforms explicitly oppose it?

In some areas, far-right individuals or organisations that have historically advocated racist policies have encouraged members and supporters to become involved in community groups. This can happen either at annual general meeting elections or through nomination by bodies with nominating rights, such as local councils.

Many charities have an equality objective in their governing documents, which means they can disqualify members with a history of, for example, expressing racist views. Additionally, for charities funded by local authorities, the involvement of those with racist views is prohibited under the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000.

Some charities might also want to consider what they can do if faced with local party political campaigns that are racist. Charities can't campaign for or against a particular candidate or party, but they can provide public information on how they view issues within their own areas of interest. And they can, of course, publicly rebut false or misleading claims about their work - for example, statements that a housing association gives precedence to asylum seekers at the expense of the general population.

Rosie Chapman is executive director of policy and effectiveness at the commission.

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