INSTITUTE OF FUNDRAISING: The importance of being part of licensing debate

Lindsay Boswell, chief executive of the Institute of Fundraising

Although the core work of the Institute is supporting fundraisers through setting high standards in fundraising practice, we also work to ensure that fundraising has a strong represented voice. This is covered by our policy work and is led by Andrew Watt, who is also the Institute's deputy chief executive.

Both Andrew and I have been looking at how self-regulation in fundraising might or should work. Today the Institute's trustees are helping to formulate our response to the Buse Commission, which is charged in leading the consultation into self-regulation.

And then another major area of policy change comes along! The original Government strategy unit report called for a complete overhaul of the systems and structures around public collections. They have now launched their consultation document on proposals for a new local authority licensing scheme. The consultation runs until 2 December. The objective is to bring consistency and transparency to a licensing regime that is currently confusing and applied inconsistently by local authorities throughout England and Wales.

The proposals in the document aim to ensure that all forms of public collecting activity should be included in one unified licensing regime.

The proposals cover the range of organisations, types and scale of activities, and the environments in which collections take place. If your organisation raises income through public collections then please ensure you take part in the consultation process. The document can be found on the ACUs website www.homeoffice.gov.uk/ inside/consults/current/index.html, or you can reach it via the Institute's site (be warned, it runs to 48 pages). If you would like a short synopsis of the key points, then we will send you 'Policy Highlights', which is an email briefing. Email policy@institute-of-fundraising.org.uk and title your email 'Policy Highlights please'.

The key issues within the report are the replacement of the current Home Office exemption order with a lead authority scheme, as well as the expansion of the regulations to cover certain private places of collection and direct debit collections. The proposals also fundamentally change the powers of local authorities.

Home Office exemption orders are granted to organisations that collect on a national basis across England and Wales. The proposal is to take the benefits of this system and make it available to more charities. Under the lead authority proposal your organisation would approach one local authority that would carry out the checks necessary and other authorities would then accept their findings.

Licences would be required for all forms of public collection including direct debits and collections of goods. Very small and local organisations would not require a licence.

The Home Office proposes that one licence should apply to all collecting activities undertaken during a period of 12- 18 months. Existing licences would be allowed to run to their expiry date. There would be no charge for licences.

Collecting organisations would be expected to notify collecting dates in advance as part of the precondition for granting a licence. An exemption from this precondition would be made for the collection of goods, although organisations wishing to collect would still require a licence.

Currently, collections in places such as stations and supermarket forecourts are not licensed. Many abuses of the existing system occur in these privately owned areas, rather than on public ground. The Home Office proposes that in future, licences will be required if they take place on land used by the public as a public highway or to which they have regular access. The public do not notice the difference between private places they have access to and a publicly owned space, and it is positive this is being considered.

There are concerns about the additional work and responsibility these proposals place on local authorities at the same time as tightening the criteria by which they can refuse such fundraising. When looked at in the round there is a great deal about these proposals that make a great deal of sense for charities. There are many details still to get right, but that is the purpose of the consultation. Please take part.

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