Editorial: Younger's parting shot will resonate

The outgoing Charity Commission head said that there is too much duplication among charities, which is likely to reopen a perennial debate, writes Stephen Cook

The Charity Commission may wish to take a stronger line on duplication, writes Stephen Cook
The Charity Commission may wish to take a stronger line on duplication, writes Stephen Cook

Sam Younger was probably wise to wait until his final days as chief executive of the Charity Commission to say what he said last week - that too many charities were being set up, resulting in "duplication, inefficiency and, sadly, too many charities that are not managed well enough". A chorus of dissent is likely to follow, but he won't be there to have to handle it.

The dissent in this perennial debate comes from the faction that thinks a hundred flowers should be allowed to bloom and that the vitality of the charity world derives from spontaneous proliferation. But there is also deep feeling to the contrary, and the result is that nobody does anything about the fact there are scores of charities - hundreds, even - all trying to do very similar things.

At the moment the only brake in this respect on the registration of new charities is an exhortation in mild language in paragraphs 36 to 38 of the dense commission document CC21 Registering as a Charity. "We suggest that you think about whether it would be better to offer your services to, or combine with, an existing charity," it says.

Younger did not argue that the commission should go any further, but this is clearly an option. If those remaining at the regulator feel the same way as he does, then it could use stronger language in a more prominent place; it could even offer or require discussions with applicants. The aim of this would not be to impose a dead hand, but to bring the number of newly blooming charities down to, say, something more like eighty.

The other concerns raised by Younger in his last speech were the need for greater transparency by charities and the commission's savagely diminished resources. He said the regulator was being set up to fail, and failure by the commission could damage public trust in charities.

Is he right about this? His concern is shared by the wider sector - according to a Third Sector survey to be published shortly. But this government at least is likely to see it as special pleading and stick to its harsh limits on public sector funding.

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