Legal Diary: Grant-giving guidance expected later this year

Plus: Charity tribunal fees and quotes for William Shawcross

Not everyone favours grant-giving guidance

Those being consulted by the Charity Commission on planned guidance for charities that give grants to non-charities are under the impression it has been put on the back burner while the commission concentrates on implementing recent legislation on warning charities and disqualifying trustees. Neal Green, senior policy adviser at the commission, says it knows some areas need further work and expects a final version to be published later in the year. Most respondents, he adds, agreed with the key principles.

That majority did not include the Charity Law Association, which probably knows more about the subject than most: it told the commission there was no need for the guidance, the draft was "over-restrictive and prohibitive" and the assertion that charities could not give unrestricted grants to non-charities was incorrect in law.

The concerns of the CLA and sector umbrella bodies centre on restrictions in the guidance on giving grants to non-charities for core costs, which they fear will inhibit the development of "social-purpose" organisations and create difficulties in funding overseas bodies and UK arts organisations, many of which are not set up as charities. The commission is unlikely to drop the guidance, however, because it is part of the fallout from the controversial past funding by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust of the advocacy group Cage.

The price of justice

We're apparently six months away from the introduction of fees for the charity tribunal: senior lawyers believe the start date is next January, although the Ministry of Justice says only that it will "make an announcement in due course."

It will cost £100 for a case to be considered on the papers, £500 for an oral hearing, and £2,000 for an appeal to the Upper Tribunal. So what of the charity tribunal's founding purposes of swift, low-cost access to justice?

The impact assessment by the ministry, which is hoping to recover 25 per cent of tribunal running costs, anticipated a 5 per cent fall in demand but "no detrimental impact on access to justice". When fees were introduced for the employment tribunal in 2013, cases fell by 70 per cent within a year.

A plea for meekness

A promising start by NAPSAQ - the National Association to Procure Shawcross Another Quote - launched in this column in April: the Charity Commission chair's most recent speech did not include his well-worn William Beveridge dictum on charities being the golden thread in national life. Instead, when he talked of bad fundraising practice, it was George Bernard Shaw's "indecency is matter out of place" - puzzling, but there you are. His final line was from the Duchess of York in Shakespeare's Richard III, telling her eponymous son: "God bless thee; and put meekness in thy breast, love, charity, obedience, and true duty." These hopes weren't realised in Richard's case, but Shawcross evidently hopes charities will conform.

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