Charity Commission services 'could be paid for by those who use them'

Some believe an annual charge could save key services and strengthen sector control

Charity Commission
Charity Commission

Charities and voluntary sector organisations should pay annual fees to the Charity Commission as a way of softening the impact of spending cuts, according to some sector experts.

The regulator faces a 28 per cent cut in its annual budget over the next four years - from £29.3m in the current financial year to £21.3m in 2014/15 - and is consulting on which services to cut.

Michael Quicke, chief executive of the investment house CCLA, suggested at a meeting with Third Sector that if charities wanted good regulation "they should be prepared to pay for it". It would also give the sector more control over how the regulator operated, he said.

Others approached by Third Sector said that, instead of losing services they want to keep, charities should pay for them themselves.

A commission spokeswoman said it welcomed debate about the future of charity regulation.

MICHAEL QUICKE, Chief executive of CCLA, the investment house

Michael Quick, chief executive, CCLAMost sectors pay for regulation, and it's certainly something the charity sector should consider.

For one thing, if the sector paid for the regulator, the regulator would be controlled more by the sector and less by the government. The sector would benefit from having more say in how its regulator operates.

It would increase charities' sense of engagement and would allow them to ensure they got good value for money.

The sector should contribute maybe 0.1 per cent of its income to this. That would pay for the commission entirely. It would have to be proportional to the charities' ability to pay.

If charities want to get good regulation, they should be prepared to pay for it. Any money lost to the sector would be bad, but it would be much better to have a properly resourced regulator than an under-resourced one.

KEVIN CURLEY, Chief executive of Navca, the local infrastructure body

Kevin Curley, chief executive, NavcaI see no reason why large charities like my own should not pay annually for some portion of the services provided by the commission - although perhaps not for all of them.

We have a turnover of £3m and we could afford it. But I don't think that small organisations with incomes under £1m should have to pay.

If this is a way for the commission to maintain free guidance services for trustees and small charities, which many of these organisations find extremely useful, then I think it ought to be an attractive proposition to the sector as a whole.

The great fear is that the commission will stop doing everything it's not required to do by statute. If an income stream derived through charging larger charities allowed the commission to continue providing the extra services that charities of all sizes depend on, that should be very welcome.

STEPHEN LLOYD, Head of charities at the law firm Bates Wells & Braithwaite

Stephen Lloyd, head of charities, Bates Wells & BraithwaiteOther regulators charge for their services. Companies House, for example, charges you to register a company or to file an annual return.

Charities could pay an annual fee of about £50, perhaps graded depending on the size of the organisation.

The revenue should go to funding core services such as the registration of charities and investigation, while the government grant could be spent on 'nicer-to-have' services.

It's important that if the commission did charge, it would be able to keep the money. It certainly shouldn't go into a central government pot.

Another concept is that the commission could become more independent. It could become an employee-owned organisation contracted to regulate the sector, in the way the government has proposed for many services. For this it would need a secure revenue stream of its own.

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