David Cameron, the Prime Minister, has announced £9m in new funding for the Charity Commission over the next three years to allow the regulator to streamline lower-risk work and improve its capacity to identify abuse and mismanagement in charities.
The government has also today published the draft Protection of Charities Bill. The legislation, which will give the commission tougher powers to tackle the abuse of charities such as disqualifying people with terrorism convictions from being charity trustees, was announced in the Queen’s Speech in June.
The commission’s budget has declined rapidly in recent years, from £31.7m in 2007/08 to £21.4m in the current year, a near halving of its resources in real terms.
In April William Shawcross, the chair of the commission, described the regulator’s financial situation as "simply unsustainable".
The new money consists of an additional £1m in general funding for 2015/16, which a statement from the commission says will fund "immediate resource needs in investigations, monitoring and enforcement", and a further £8m in investment available between now and March 2017.
The commission said in the statement that it would use the £8m "to invest in technology and frontline operations, allowing it to streamline lower risk work and redeploy its resources to further improve and strengthen its work to identify abuse and mismanagement in charities.
"The new funding and the powers included in the draft legislation will make it a more efficient, effective and agile regulator," the statement said.
A spokeswoman for the commission says it was informed of the new funding yesterday, after negotiations involving both Shawcross and Paula Sussex, the regulator’s chief executive.
The spokeswoman said the commission could not immediately give details on the projects it intended to fund.
"We haven’t got anything very specific to say at this stage. It’s essentially taking people and brains out of some of the lower-risk stuff that can be more automated, and moving them to high-risk areas," she said. The spokeswoman also said it was not likely that substantial recruitment would result from the funding.
She also said the new funding would be applied along the lines of Sussex’s vision of a more proactive regulator, as she outlined at the commission’s annual public meeting last month.
Shawcross said: "I am delighted about today’s announcements, which are a vote of confidence in the commission’s role as regulator and our strategy for strengthening our work to prevent and tackle serious abuse. The additional funding and the new powers will help us promote public trust in charities and ensure that charities continue to play their vital role in our society."
Sir Stephen Bubb, chief executive of the charity chief executives body Acevo, welcomed the extra funding and new powers. "This shows that the Treasury can be made to listen," he said. However, he warned against the new resources being seen purely as counter-terrorism funds.
Bubb said: "The Charity Commission exists first to monitor and support the day-to-day work of charities helping some of the most vulnerable people in our country. They should not use this funding and these new powers as an excuse to lose focus."