Charity Commission accused of 'rigid thinking'

Rules restricting the payment of trustees for goods and services are unnecessarily tough, says lawyer

Lawyers have accused the Charity Commission of being "unnecessarily restrictive" in its application of laws on the payment of trustees for goods and services.

The Charities Act 2006 introduced measures permitting charities to ask the commission for powers to pay trustees for providing services, and for goods "supplied in connection with the provision of services", without further consent from the commission (13 February 2008, page 4).

But Philip Kirkpatrick, a partner at Bates Wells & Braithwaite, said the commission should also give charities permission to pay trustees for goods that are not directly connected to services.

"This is a classic example of rigid thinking by the commission," he said.

A spokeswoman for the commission said it would authorise payments for providing goods only where it was satisfied that the arrangement was "expedient" for the charity.

Kirkpatrick said the commission's stance was causing problems for umbrella bodies that produced model constitutions that included the power to pay trustees for providing goods.

"The commission should take the relaxed, commonsense view that if Parlia-ment decided it is to charities' advantage to pay their trustees for providing services, the same should apply to providing goods," he said.

"The only reason there is a distinction in the law between kinds of goods is that no one gave it proper thought when the Charities Bill was being debated. It doesn't make any sense that a trustee who is constructing a building for his or her charity can also supply bricks, but a trustee who is not a builder cannot."

Nicola Evans, a senior associate at Bircham Dyson Bell, said that before the 2006 act, the commission had a fast-track procedure for approving powers to pay trustees for goods as well as services.

"Including a power to pay trustees for providing goods, subject to appropriate safeguards, should be just as uncontroversial after enacting the power to pay for services as it was before," she said.

"The commission's unnecessarily restrictive approach inhibits responsible behaviour and causes needless expense for charities."

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