Charity Commission rejects fewer would-be charities

Regulator says the figures do not mean it is becoming more lenient

The Charity Commission rejected fewer than half as many registration applications in 2009 as it did in 2006.

Figures released after a request made under the Freedom of Information Act show a steady decline in the number of applicant organisations deemed by the commission not to have exclusively charitable aims, purposes and activities. The number fell from 110 in 2006 to 50 in 2008 before rising to 53 in 2009.

The numbers of registration applications received by the commission fluctuated between 6,800 and 7,700 a year during the same period.

A spokeswoman for the regulator said the figures did not mean that its registration division was becoming more lenient.

She said the reason for the decline was the commission's recent policy of working with applicant organisations in order to understand them in more depth and to help them prepare successful applications.

"Where we are engaging applicants for longer and they provide better information, organisations sometimes realise they are structured in a way that is not consistent with charitable status and decide to opt for another type of structure, such as a social enterprise," she said.

"In the past, such applicants might have been rejected rather than deciding to withdraw their application."

She said the commission considered each case on its merits and assessed how each applicant met the commission's charitable purpose and public benefit tests. The registration division's approach to public benefit had not been significantly affected by the Charities Act 2006, she added.

Religious organisation the Gnostic Centre recently had its registration application rejected after a decision review by the commission's board. It has decided not to appeal to the charity tribunal (9 February, page 2).

Additional reporting by Sarah Rainey.

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