Charity Commission guidance on disqualifying trustees 'should be rewritten'

A working group of the Charity Law Association responds to a consultation on the guidance by saying it 'falls short of what the public should expect'

Charity Commission
Charity Commission

Charity Commission guidance on how it will use its new power to disqualify trustees is so poor that implementation should be delayed while the document is rewritten, a group of lawyers has said.

A consultation on the commission’s proposed guidance on the new power, which will enable the regulator to disqualify people from acting as trustees or working in senior management positions at charities, closed last month.

A response to the consultation from a working group of the Charity Law Association says the proposed guidance is too broad and "falls short of what the public should expect from a regulator attempting to explain its use of new powers".

It says the level of seriousness at which the powers should be applied and what constitutes a clear case for their use has not been adequately depicted, says the working group’s response.

The guidance leaves "room for considerable subjective decision making by the commission", it says.

The paper says that the group recognises the commission had a difficult task in drawing up an appropriate policy document to accompany the new powers.

But it says the policy document is not fit for purpose and "it is our firm recommendation that the document should be rethought and reformulated, and that implementation of the power be delayed while this is addressed".

The working group’s response echoes views from charity umbrella bodies that the guidance is too broad and allows the commission too much discretion.

A spokesman for the Charity Commission said the regulator was examining the responses to the consultation and would decide to what extent amendments were needed.

"It is important to be clear, however, that this is a power that will be used in serious and relevant cases where the use is justified and proportionate in order to help the commission protect charities from abuse," he said.

"The commission is accountable for the use of the power, which can be challenged in the charity tribunal. It was given with a clear mandate after debate in parliament, and changing the substantive principles would go against the will of parliament and the purpose of the legislation."

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