Charity Commission told to end 'confusing' efforts at guidance

The Charity Commission should stick to regulating and refrain from issuing guidance, according to the chief executive of the NCVO.

"If the commission is principally a regulator, I'm not convinced that it should be producing aspirational guidance," Stuart Etherington told charity trustees at a debate on the governance hub's recently published code last week.

He suggested that the commission should limit its role after several trustees admitted they find the different governance standards confusing.

It emerged that there is uncertainty over what is compulsory and what is voluntary. Some trustees are unsure of the relationship between the commission's CC60 hallmarks, the governance hub's good governance code and the National Occupational Standards for Trustees, which are being developed by the workforce hub. All three are non-compulsory.

Etherington said trustees need to be able to distinguish more easily between codes they are required to meet and those they can aspire to meet.

It was suggested that voluntary guidance from the commission added to confusion among trustees.

But Andrew Hind, chief executive of the Charity Commission, said the regulator was trying to make the distinction clearer by redesigning its key publications.

"It is right that we need to look at the wording of CC60 and how it is used," he said. "CC60 was written when there was no governance code in existence."

However, Giles Peel, director of policy and development at the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators, suggested survival of the fittest would help charities decipher which standards to pursue. He said that, judging from the commercial world, "the best code will out in the end".

ALSO ...

The Charity Commission has published guidance to help charities prepare for the mandatory adoption of the new Sorp in April, but questions have been raised about why it has taken so long.

The materials include templates for the layout and content of the annual report and accounts, six example accounts and links to the websites of charities that have already published accounts under Sorp 2005 guidelines.

Peter Gotham, chairman of the charities group of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, said he was pleased the examples had been published but said their arrival only two months before charities have to follow the new standards was a concern.

A spokeswoman for the commission said it wanted to provide real-life examples of how the Sorp had been adopted to help small charities.

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