Community-activity Christian group appeals against refusal of charitable status

The Charity Commission ruled that Uturn UK's 'street associations' object was not charitable in law

Uturn UK supports community activities
Uturn UK supports community activities

Uturn UK, a Christian group that supports community activities, has appealed to the charity tribunal against the Charity Commission’s decision not to register it as a charity.

The organisation applied to register in May 2010, and said one of its objects was "to advance citizenship and community development by the promotion and activation of the Street Associations initiative, which will seek to bring together residents of streets in local groupings within a framework which will engender civic responsibility and volunteering".

The regulator ruled in August that this object was not charitable.

The organisation was set up by Martin Graham, a former deputy director of the Conservative Party’s research department and a speechwriter for John Major during his time as Prime Minister. Another of its proposed objects is the promotion of the Christian faith.

In its decision, the commission said Uturn UK's objecs were not exclusively charitable: "Although phrased as being about community development and civic responsibility, the object doesn’t fall within what the law has recognised as charitable."

It said the term "street associations" did not have a definition, and the establishment of these projects would not necessarily "result in an exclusively charitable outcome".

It said that even if Uturn UK’s proposed object did fall within the legal definition of a charitable object, it would not necessarily provide the public benefit required by law for charitable status.

"In reaching its conclusion, the commission is not to be taken as making any judgement in relation to whether street associations are or are not a good thing. As the court has recognised, not everything that is a good thing is charitable," the decision said.

Uturn UK’s website says "street associations" are set up after a meeting of local leaders, including the local authority, GP practices, headteachers and church leaders.

It says these meetings lead to the appointment of an "initiator", whose job it is to form a committee of residents that organises events such as barbecues, and teas for elderly residents. Members of the committee will also encourage residents to volunteer to help out their neighbours, the site says.

The website says: "Imagine a town street where, say, 200 people from 70 houses had come together to form a ‘street association’. Everyone knew everyone else. They did things together. They looked after each other’s needs. They had fun together… We are putting this ideal forward as a real possibility – and not just as an exceptional talking point, but as a model for any street in any town or area."

It is not yet clear whether the tribunal will agree to look at the case.

Graham declined to comment about the case.

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