Charity Commission revamps register to include data on overseas spending

The online register will also say whether charities pay trustees, have trading subsidiaries, are grant-makers or raise funds from the public

Charity Commission online register
Charity Commission online register

Information about how much money charities spend in each country where they work is among the new data that will be available on the Charity Commission’s revamped online register.

The new register, which a spokeswoman for the commission said she hoped would be launched by the end of July, will include a new design and new search features. The regulator had previously said it might go live shortly after Easter.

The overseas spend data comes from the annual return that all charities with incomes of more than £10,000 must submit each year. The question of how much money is spent in each country they work in outside England and Wales is now mandatory, having been voluntary until the end of 2012.

The commission spokeswoman said that the new register would say whether charities paid trustees, had trading subsidiaries, were grant-makers or raised funds from the public.

As previously reported, the new register will also indicate if charities are members of the Fundraising Standards Board, if they receive gift aid, if they have written policies on selected issues including investments and conflicts of interest, and if they are registered with any of four other regulators: the Care Quality Commission, the Homes and Communities Agency, the Financial Conduct Authority and Ofsted.

The commission spokeswoman said it would consider preventing annual return information being made public "if a particular charity can show that making this information publicly available would cause harm or detriment to the charity". This already happened for some domestic violence charities, where the names of trustees are not displayed, she said.

"The charity would need to agree this with us before they submit their annual return," she said, pointing out that the commission was adding to its guidance on the matter. Such information would also be protected from being disclosed in the case of a request made to the commission under the Freedom of Information Act, the spokeswoman said.

Stephanie Biden, a partner at the law firm Bates Wells Braithwaite, said she was concerned some charities might not have been aware that the information on international spending was going to be made public. "It’s only fairly recently that the commission has made the question about how much you spend in other countries mandatory rather than voluntary," she said.

She said that charities wishing to keep information undisclosed "should be careful about accepting the commission’s assurances about the Freedom of Information Act, because that is not entirely within the commission’s control and might be subject to legal challenge".

Last month, the commission launched an eight-week consultation into further changes to the annual return. Proposals include charities having to declare how much they spend on campaigning, whether they have executive remuneration policies and whether they have reviewed financial controls during the year.

A total of six million individual checks of charity details were made on the register last year, according to the commission.

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