The Charity Commission's budgetary strains were all too apparent at its open board meeting in London last week.
First there was the choice of a cheaper option for setting up the Faith and Social Cohesion Unit's advisory group of "critical friends" (Third Sector Online, 23 May). According to the board paper, establishing links with existing inter-faith networks to guide the unit's activities would be more "resource-intensive" than gathering a group of about 15 people who already have relationships with the commission. The 'group-of-15' option was approved without discussion, despite the warning in the board paper that a group of the usual suspects could be too busy, London-centric and high-level to represent the range of views in the faith sector.
Concerns about "managing expectations" in relation to the FSCU's capacity to expand its focus beyond Muslim organisations were also highlighted. Part of the problem is that the unit's founding grant from the Department for Communities and Local Government is specifically for work with the Muslim community. Khadim Hussain, the unit's midlands outreach manager, also lamented that the commission lacked resources to rectify governance weaknesses that barred some Muslim organisations from charitable registration.
The resources question was again brought up regarding proposals to raise the income threshold for charities required to submit annual accounts from £10,000 to £25,000 (Third Sector Online, 23 May). The debate centred on whether a minor perceived loss of accountability among small charities was enough to outweigh the savings made as a result of the commission having to chase 23,000 fewer accounts each year.
Staff said a failure to lift the threshold would have seen the commission unable to meet its savings target.