Charity Commission suspended four trustees in 2013/14

Lord Wallace of Saltaire, the Cabinet Office spokesman in the Lords, says this is equal to the previous five years combined, but no trustee has been suspended in more than five years

House of Lords
House of Lords

The Charity Commission suspended four charity trustees last year, the same number it had suspended in the previous five years combined, but has not removed a trustee from their post in more than five years.

The information was provided in a response by Lord Wallace of Saltaire, a Liberal Democrat peer and Cabinet Office spokesman in the Lords, to a written parliamentary question from Lord Donoughue, a Labour peer.

The response says that in 2013/14 the commission suspended four trustees from their positions. In 2012/13 it did not suspend any trustees, and in each of the four years before that it suspended one trustee a year. In 2007/08 it suspended seven trustees.

In 2007/08 it also removed six trustees. A single trustee was also removed in 2008/09, the last to be removed by the commission.

The commission has the power to suspend a trustee or employee at a charity for a maximum of 12 months while it considers whether to remove them from their role, according to the commission’s website. Removing a trustee means they are disqualified from acting as a trustee of any other charity. The regulator has previously expressed frustration at the fact that the rules allow suspended trustees to resign from their position before they are formally removed.

Lord Wallace’s response said: "A number of meetings have been held with the Charity Commission to discuss its use of regulatory powers. The draft Protection of Charities Bill, announced as part of the Queen’s Speech, would strengthen the powers of the Charity Commission to tackle abuse in charities."

The draft bill, announced earlier this month, would give the regulator a discretionary power to disqualify unfit persons from acting as trustees. The draft legislation came after a public consultation found the sector was split on whether this was an appropriate power to give the commission.

A spokeswoman for the commission said: "Our enforcement powers are insufficient, which is why we have asked for, among other powers, a power to disqualify individuals from being trustees. That would, for example, close the current loophole that allows a trustee to avoid commission action simply by resigning."

The spokeswoman said the regulator had "been making visible progress in toughening our approach to regulation across the board", as demonstrated by an increase in the number of statutory inquiries it had opened recently.

Two of the trustees suspended last year were a husband and wife later found guilty of stealing £350,000 from the charity Afghan Poverty Relief, and sentenced to a total of eight years in jail.

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