We aim to make the sector more self-reliant, says Charity Commission

Chief executive Sam Younger launches strategic plan for next three years

Charity Commission chief executive Sam Younger
Charity Commission chief executive Sam Younger

The Charity Commission’s priorities will be developing the compliance and accountability of the sector and helping it to become more self-reliant, according to the regulator’s Strategic Plan 2012-2015.

The document, published this morning, says the regulator, taking into account reduced resources, "needs to focus only on what the regulator can do".

The commission’s budget is falling from £29.3m in 2010/11 to £21.3m in 2014/15.

The strategy document says the commission will focus on registering charities, giving generic guidance, providing statutory advice or permissions, maintaining transparency through charity annual returns and investigating alleged wrongdoing.

The regulator will retain a rigorous approach to registering charities and will continue to investigate cases of misconduct, but will try to take a more proactive approach to prevent problems before they come up, the strategy document says.

However, it will cut down on guidance to individual charities and "move to a position where the commission is not seen as the first or only point of call for those who need tailored advice".

Sam Younger, chief executive of the commission, told a  meeting for members of the Charity Finance Directors’ Group yesterday that the decisions had been driven by a 33 per cent cut to its budget, but that it was right to reduce one-to-one advice to charities in any case.

"It seems that we should be doing this whether there were fewer resources or not," he said. "Charities and trustees should be able to get on with their business without consulting the regulator.

"However, there will be a gradual move away from this. We aren’t going to cut the process off at the knees."

He said more advice would be offered by umbrella bodies rather than the commission, but the commission would put in place a system to learn about the concerns that were being raised with those bodies.

Younger said the commission would need to be "clearer than in the past" about taking appropriate action in compliance cases. In one case, he said, the commission had spent five times the annual income of a charity investigating it.

He said the commission would not carry out significantly fewer investigations, but would aim to end investigations more quickly.

Too many trustees were still making "basic mistakes", he said, and more than half of all compliance cases involved some form of governance failure. He said the commission would try to be more proactive in preventing types of failing that kept arising, rather than waiting until problems were reported.

And Younger said the commission would look at whether the right information was being reported by charities.

"We need to think about whether we’re putting into the public domain the right information to be accountable. One of the important elements is that impact reporting is increasingly going to be a theme."

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