Beta website has cost the regulator £183,000 so far

The Charity Commission's beta website has been criticised by some for what they consider a poor method of comparing charities

The much-maligned website
The much-maligned website

The Charity Commission has spent more than £183,000 on developing and maintaining its much-maligned beta website, Third Sector has learned.

In response to a request made by Third Sector under the Freedom of Information Act, the commission said that £80,750 was spent on setting up the pilot website.

The beta website was launched in 2014 and has been the subject of significant criticism from within the charity sector about its use of charitable spending ratios, which are considered by many to be a poor way of comparing charities.

Research by Third Sector last month found inconsistencies in the data presented on the beta website, suggesting the ratios used had the potential to confuse or mislead the public.

Hosting and supporting the beta website has cost the commission £27,000 a year in each of 2016, 2017 and 2018, the regulator’s response to the request shows, though this figure also covers the costs of other services.

Changes to the website in 2016 and 2017 cost a combined £22,100, the commission said.

This means that a minimum of £183,850 has been spent on setting up the beta website, then running and changing it over the past three years.

A spokeswoman for the Charity Commission said a key priority under its new strategy – which was launched last year – was informing public choice about charities.

"We have and will continue to listen to feedback from users to inform ongoing reviews and changes to the beta version based on users’ comments," she said.

"We know that how charities report on their work matters to the public, so we are looking very closely at how we communicate charities’ information. It is right that any changes are properly thought through and tested."

The commission is two years into a three-year programme to review the register of charities, which includes the development of a new public register display.

The spokeswoman said that the commission was consulting with "a range of stakeholders to ensure that any further investments are carefully planned and make a valued difference".

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