Commission on the right path, but could do better

The Charity Commission has made good progress in the past two years, especially with strategy and communications, but should be more confident about contentious issues and must improve its relationship with government.

These are among the key findings of a consultancy report on the views of 69 of the commission's "key external stakeholders", who were asked similar questions by the same company in 2004.

"The commission is going very much in the right direction," said the report, by DHA Communications. "While it is recognised there is still much to do, respondents felt that significant progress had been made.

In some areas, it is too early to tell whether changes will translate into action and better service delivery."

Andrew Hind, chief executive of the commission, said he was pleased that stakeholders' average score over seven categories had risen from 4.7 to 6.3. In another two years, he said, he hoped it would be about eight.

He agreed that a more consistent response by staff to clients was needed, along with a more mature relationship with government and further refinement of investigation and compliance work.

The survey found a desire for the commission to be "forthright and robust" on matters such as fundraising ethics, transparency and the definition of public benefit. On the commission objective of "championing the public interest in charity", it found a small majority felt it was for others, such as umbrella bodies, to be champions.

Almost all respondents felt penalties should be imposed on charities, especially larger ones, for late submission of accounts. The commission said fines were not possible without new secondary legislation.

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