The proposal for charities to pay a fee to fund the work of the Charity Commission would face strong opposition from within the sector and would require the regulator to become more independent of government, umbrella bodies warned today.
The commission today published the report Trust and Confidence in the Charity Commission, which included a poll of 1,001 members of the public and 1,129 trustees and senior charity staff about the regulator’s powers and how it should be funded.
The study reveals that 25 per cent of the public said the commission should be funded through tax receipts alone; 56 per cent said they thought there should be a mixture of public funding and a fee paid by charities; and 13 per cent said it should be funded entirely by charities.
The report says that 68 per cent of the charities surveyed opposed being charged for regulation and 21 per cent supported a mixed funding model. Only 2 per cent of charities said the commission should be funded by charities alone, and 10 per cent of charity respondents said they did not know.
William Shawcross, chair of the commission, said the research shows that "a majority of the public would like to see charities make a contribution to their own regulation" and it must look into all the options for placing "the commission’s funding on a more secure footing".
Last year, Shawcross said that the regulator might seek a fee from charities with incomes of more than £100,000 a year.
But Sir Stephen Bubb, chief executive of the charity leaders group Acevo, said in a statement that the introduction of a fee would be opposed. "The commission has pushed for charities to be charged for the commission’s work, but there is clearly no mandate for this. Its own research tells us that 68 per cent of charities do not agree with this proposal.
"Acevo’s own survey found that 75 per cent of our members disagree. There would be ongoing questions around the governance and probity of such an arrangement. The regulator must take heed of this consensus, rather than pursue the agenda regardless."
Jay Kennedy, director of policy and research at the Directory of Social Change, a training and publishing charity, said that it was also strongly opposed to the introduction of any fee.
"DSC is implacably opposed to the Charity Commission charging charities for their own regulation and will campaign vigorously against any such move – especially as it would add yet another financial burden to hundreds of thousands of already cash-strapped small charities," he said. "I wonder what the polling result would have been had they asked the public how they would feel about a proportion of their charitable donations subsidising budget cuts made by HM Treasury."
Sir Stuart Etherington, chief executive of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, said in a statement that it was happy to ask its members for their views on paying fees for regulation, but added: "Any move to charging would need to go hand in hand with reforms to ensure the Charity Commission is independent of government and is seen to be independent of government. It couldn’t just be a matter of charities subsidising the commission under the current set-up."
Kennedy said the DSC disagreed with the commission’s finding in the report that there was "universal support" among all charities, the public and stakeholders for the introduction of new powers for the Charity Commission. The commission is due to receive 12 powers under the Charities (Protection and Social Investment) Bill, currently making its way through parliament.
"The commission clearly needs to refer to a dictionary for a definition of ‘universal’ because this simply isn’t justified by its own evidence, let alone the current debate on this issue. There are many new powers that are being proposed and the polling question they asked only mentioned two."