Acevo's Sir Stephen Bubb says Charity Commission chair is wrong to say sector is in crisis

In a blog post, Bubb says he expects the regulator to rise above the noise of the tabloids and make the case for the work of charities

Sir Stephen Bubb
Sir Stephen Bubb

Sir Stephen Bubb, head of the charity chief executives body Acevo, has criticised William Shawcross, chair of the Charity Commission, for saying the voluntary sector was in crisis due to the public outcry over the death of Olive Cooke.

Shawcross gave a speech on Wednesday during which he said that the death last month of the 92-year-old poppy seller Cooke, who some national newspapers claimed committed suicide after being "hounded by charities", had given rise to concerns about the extent of direct fundraising by charities.

"I believe this is a crisis for the charity sector that is testing the strength and capacity of self-regulation," said Shawcross.

In a blog post published yesterday, Bubb refuted Shawcross’s comments and said it was not for the chair of the Charity Commission to "to court national controversy for the sector he is mandated to support".

He wrote: "The chair of the Charity Commission said in a speech this week that the sector is in crisis.

"This is very disappointing. I would expect the charity regulator to rise above the noise of the tabloids and make the public case for charities’ work."

Bubb said the commission should "extol the importance of charities and the vital contribution we make".

He said that firm regulation was part of the Charity Commission’s role. "But just as important is its job to speak out for and support the organisations it regulates. At the very least, it should be leading the public debate, not following the lead set by lurid coverage in the press."

Bubb said he agreed that charities should be reviewing their fundraising practices in response to the outcry over Cooke’s death.

"But to call the recent news reports ‘a crisis for the charity sector which is testing the strength and capacity of self-regulation’ – that is not true," said Bubb. "And it merely makes another lurid headline."

Bubb said he was sceptical about the commission charging charities for regulation to stabilise its budget, something also discussed by Shawcross in his speech on Wednesday.

"I am not certain that a compulsory charge is really in the best interests of a free and fair society, especially when there are questions about the quality of that regulator’s contribution to the national debate," said Bubb. "Even beyond this, I remain sceptical. In a recent Acevo survey, 75 per cent of our membership were against charging for regulation."

The Charity Commission declined to comment on the issue.

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