Government needs 'stronger evidence' for public collections license proposals

Office of the Third Sector wants to be sure benefits outweigh costs before it proceeds

The Office of the Third Sector has said it needs a "stronger evidence base" that the benefits of the proposed new licensing system for public charitable collections outweigh the costs before it proceeds with the initiative.

The system, contained in the Charities Act 2006, would require organisations that fundraise in public to apply for a certificate from the commission and a permit from local authorities in whose areas they operate.

Last week, the OTS and the Charity Commission invited tenders to conduct eight months of research into the costs and benefits.

The system is likely to have financial implications for fundraising agencies and charities as well as the commission, which has already warned it will need extra funding to implement all of its new duties under the act.

"Once the research phase is completed, the resource implications will be discussed," a commission spokeswoman said.

With the successful bidder due to begin work in April and publish a report of its findings in December, the OTS expects the new system to begin operating in 2010.

However, an OTS spokeswoman said: "Before we proceed with implementation, we need a stronger evidence base to be confident that the benefits of the new system will outweigh the costs. That is why we are going to do further research."

Public charitable collections, which include door-to-door and street fundraising, are currently controlled by local authorities, except in London, where they are the responsibility of the police. The new system is designed to unify the situation in England.

The research project, which will be managed jointly by the OTS and the commission, will involve collecting the views of local authorities as well as of fundraising organisations.

Megan Pacey, director of policy and campaigns at the Institute of Fundraising, said she would wait for details from the OTS proposals on how the new system would work before commenting on the likely implications for charities. "As always with these things, the devil is in the detail and at the moment it's not clear," she said.


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