Government enlists voluntary sector chiefs to red tape taskforce

Regulatory burden on charities and enterprises will be examined

Lord Hodgson
Lord Hodgson

The Office for Civil Society is today launching the Big Society Deregulation Taskforce to examine how red tape and bureaucracy can be reduced for charities and community organisations.

It will be run jointly with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, which also wants to cut the administrative burden on small enterprises.

The taskforce - a key election pledge by the Conservatives - will be chaired by Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, president of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations. He was the Tory spokesman during debates about the Charities Act 2006.

Other members include Andrew Hind, chief executive of the Charity Commission until the end of this month, and Lynne Berry, chief executive of WRVS.

Sir Graham Melmoth, chair of the NCVO until November, David Tyler, chief executive of the umbrella body Community Matters, and David Thompson, chair of Marston's brewery, will also be on the taskforce.

Nick Hurd, the Minister for Civil Society, told Third Sector that the move was part of a wider attempt to rethink the state's attitude towards risk, which was generating too much regulation. Vetting and barring and health and safety rules were also under review.

"I'll be encouraging Lord Hodgson to get really specific and engage with front-line groups, and we're going to ask our strategic partners to help with this," he said. "We want to discover what people find frustrating and gets in the way so we can find out what drives it and consider whether we can take it away."

He said the taskforce would look at bureaucracy on Gift Aid with the Gift Aid Forum, an existing joint Whitehall-sector body.

A statement from the OCS said the taskforce's subjects might include responsibilities of trustees, employment law and contractual arrangements when civil society organisations provide public services.

Hurd said the fit and proper persons test, under which HM Revenue & Customs can deny tax relief to charities if it thinks their staff untrustworthy, would remain a matter for the Treasury.

"There is a difficult balance to be struck between managing that on behalf of the taxpayer and the desire of the government to reduce the bureaucratic burden for charities," he said.

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