Governance 2008: Our top stories of the year

Think tanks got slated, CIOs were delayed and the public benefit test left many charities annoyed. Tristan Donovan looks back at third sector law and governance in 2008.


Public benefit battles

The Charity Commission's public benefit guidance was a big source of disagreement in the sector in 2008.

The launch of the guidance in January was heralded as the moment the sector would go "back to basics" by the commission.

But organisations whose charitable status was being questioned, such as private schools and religious charities, pushed for numerous changes – some of which they got in the final guidance released by the commission this week.

See: Interview: This will bring us back to basics, says Dame Suzi; Commission publishes final public benefit guidance

Charity Tribunal off to a slow start

It opened its doors in February, but it was not until September – with its team of 11 lay  members in place – that the Charity Tribunal really got to work.

Sivayogam, a temple for Tamils in south London that was removed from the charities register, became the first organisation to make an appeal to the tribunal.

See: News Analysis: Charity Tribunal to open its doors; Charity Tribunal's first case delayed; Interview: Alison McKenna, president, Charity Tribunal

Charity law reform in Northern Ireland

Charity law in Northern Ireland got a major overhaul this year with the addition of the Charities Act (Northern Ireland) 2008 to the statute book. The act created a new charity commission and register for the province as well as a charity tribunal.

See: Keep it legal: Charities Act (Northern Ireland) 2008

Think tank in hot water

The Smith Institute received a ticking off from the Charity Commission back in the summer after the regulator's investigators concluded it had not done enough to distance itself from the Labour Party.

Three weeks after the commission's criticisms, the think tank's chair Lord Haskel and director Wilf Stevenson both quit, although they denied their resignations had anything to do with the inquiry.

See: Inquiry hits out at Smith Institute trustees; Chair and director of Smith Institute both resign

The long-delayed arrival of CIOs

The arrival of charitable incorporated organisations was beset by delays after the Government pushed back the release of its draft guidance from July to October.

Charity lawyers said the delays meant charities were being left in limbo. The guidance did appear, however, and the consultation on its contents ended earlier this month.

See: Lawyers frustrated by delayed incorporation rules; Curtain rises on CIOs consultation


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