Applications for charitable status up by 36 per cent, says Charity Commission

According to a letter from chief executive Paula Sussex to Meg Hillier MP, chair of the Public Accounts Committee, the figure compares the first four months of 2015/16 with the same period the previous year

Commission: has reduced average processing time
Commission: has reduced average processing time

The Charity Commission received 36 per cent more registration applications in the first four months of 2015/16 than in the same period last year.

The figure is contained in a letter from Paula Sussex, chief executive of the commission, to Meg Hillier MP, chair of the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee, giving the committee an update on the regulator’s progress since an evidence hearing in January.

Sussex told Hillier that the commission was making good progress on its transformation programme and had "improved the robustness of decision-making at registration".

The regulator received 2,890 registration applications in the first four months of the current financial year, compared with 2,132 in the same period in 2014/15, a spokeswoman for the commission confirmed.

She said the regulator’s assumption was that the increase was linked to a large rise in the volume of applications for organisations to be registered as charitable incorporated organisations, the legal form that became available from 2013.

The commission received 2,248 CIO applications in 2014/15 – nearly twice as many as in the previous year.

Sussex’s letter, sent last month, said that despite a large increase in the volume of registration applications, which had also risen by 8 per cent year on year in 2014/15, the commission had reduced the average time taken to process the applications.

It noted that that about a third of applications in 2014/15 did not result in registration – the comparative figure in the previous year was about a quarter.

The letter said the regulator was making greater use of its powers, as pointed out in its most recent annual report, and had served notice to remove six trustees from office in the current financial year. This compared with four removed trustees in 2014/15 and one in the previous year, said Sussex.

She said the commission was monitoring "an increasing number of organisations that meet the legal requirements for charitable status and must be registered, but give rise to concerns that the charity may not function as stated at the time of application".

This included concerns relating to the level of charitable expenditure, individuals involved or "characteristics we know to be associated with risk".

In response to the PAC’s recommendation that the commission should introduce monitoring of its regulatory activity to check there was no institutional bias, either on the basis of a charity’s religious affiliation or other grounds, Sussex said the regulator had effective processes in place and was confident there was no bias in the way it made decisions.

She said that all staff were required to complete a mandatory online module on unconscious bias and the commission ran regulator courses for those in higher-risk roles.

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