The Charity Commission should open an investigation into claims by a Downing Street spokesman that some charities "don’t do a great amount of charitable work", according to Sir Stephen Bubb, chief executive of the chief executives body Acevo.
The Prime Minister’s spokesman made the claim earlier this week in response to criticisms of the government’s decision to cap the level of tax reliefs for charitable donors.
In a letter to the commission’s chair, Dame Suzi Leather, Bubb says the claims had "received widespread publicity so can do enormous damage if left unanswered".
The letter says: "As we know, the basis of public confidence in charities generally rests on the trust they have in us doing work for the public benefit. So the suggestion from No 10 that there are unnamed charities engaged in tax evasion is potentially seriously damaging. This cannot be allowed to rest without investigation."
The letter says the regulator should ask the Treasury for details of the charities that it thinks are acting improperly "so that you can mount an immediate investigation".
Bubb told Third Sector: "I’m shocked at the silence from the commission in the face of all these allegations from the government."
A spokeswoman for the Charity Commission said it would respond to Bubb’s letter later today.
In an article for The Times newspaper today, Martin Narey, the former chief executive of Barnardo’s, defends the government’s decision to cap tax reliefs for philanthropists.
"Giving to charities, some of which are doing well in the recession (three of the UK’s biggest saw voluntary income grow by a third or more last year) should not be an alternative to paying tax," the article says.
"The government is right to promote giving. But the belief that unlimited tax relief is necessarily a good thing must be challenged. There are charities that do so little in terms of charitable activity that, in effect, they are bogus," Narey writes.
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