Charity Commission strongly criticised after annual public meeting

The Directory of Social Change has launched a scathing attack on the Charity Commission after the regulator's annual public meeting yesterday.

In a blog post Jay Kennedy, director of policy and research at the training and publishing charity, said the commission was uninterested in examining its own performance and wanted to put its failings back onto charities.

The regulator said in response that it was not afraid to set high standards for itself and be held accountable.

Kennedy also accused the commission’s leadership of being unable to accept the laws and regulations it was supposed to explain and enforce.

“The commission also seems worryingly uninterested, at least publicly and at the senior level, in robustly examining its own performance in terms of how it serves the constituency it regulates – charities and charity trustees – because it has conveniently decided it works for a vague concept of ‘the public’ rather than the real people who interact with it on a daily basis,” said Kennedy.

He described this as a “PR sleight of hand” that shifted responsibility for the regulator’s own failings back onto charities, while avoiding further scrutiny or interrogation.

The Charity Commission already came under fire earlier in the week when it emerged that its chair, Baroness Stowell, would not be available for questions at the virtual APM.

Kennedy said: “It’s now beyond obvious that the leadership of the commission either doesn’t really understand or doesn’t accept the very law and regulation it is charged with explaining and enforcing.”

He said the regulator did not recognise the boundaries of its own statutorily defined remit and seemed determined to stretch that remit in every direction possible, regardless of what charity law said.

Kennedy’s blog post, entitled "Another round of disinformation from the Charity Commission leadership", ended by saying the leadership’s "populist approach" increasingly reflected the government's style of governing.

"Which is odd, because the Charity Commission is a regulator; one that is rightly supposed to be independent and accountable to parliament – not any minister, government department, or political party," said Kennedy. 

Duncan Shrubsole, director of policy, communications and research at the Lloyds Bank Foundation, also tweeted a response to a claim Stowell made in her speech that Covid-19 has exposed the sector’s main challenge. 

He said: “With the greatest of respect, I doubt anyone who has benefited from, volunteered for, donated to, served, worked in, run or funded a charity during Covid would say that this is the main challenge charities face… they deserve to at least be understood by the regulator and its chair.”

A Charity Commission spokesperson said: “At yesterday’s APM, our chief executive gave a detailed summary of our operational performance last year, and our plans for the period ahead.

"Together with her executive team she also answered a range of questions – some of them challenging – about our work.”

The regulator pointed out that it made public the operational standards it aspired to earlier in the year, to allow others to measure its delivery against them.

“We also published our business plan for the current financial year, for the same reason. We are not afraid to set high standards for ourselves, and be held accountable for meeting them.”

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