NCVO and lawyers welcome Charity Commission's revised public benefit guidance

Elizabeth Chamberlain, senior policy officer at the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, says the commission has made good work of 'distilling centuries of case law'

Elizabeth Chamberlain
Elizabeth Chamberlain

The Charity Commission’s revised public benefit guidance is clearer, more helpful and easier to understand than previous guidance, the National Council for Voluntary Organisations and legal experts have said.

The regulator today published revised, less rigid public benefit guidance, which offers more freedom to trustees of fee-charging charities.

It comes after the commission was told by the Upper Tribunal in 2011 – following a legal challenge by the Independent Schools Council – that parts of its old guidance were "wrong in law".

Elizabeth Chamberlain, senior policy officer at the NCVO, said: "The commission has made good work of the challenging job of distilling centuries of case law into guidance for trustees."

But she said the NCVO still supported the idea that it would be helpful for parliament to establish "high-level principles of public benefit" to provide more guidance for trustees and the commission.

Matthew Burgess, general secretary of the Independent Schools Council, said that the new guidance "avoids the confusion and errors of the previous guidance" and that it would now "provide concise and helpful pointers to charity trustees on the different aspects of public benefit in establishing, running and reporting on a charity."

Sam Macdonald, a partner at the law firm Farrer & Co, said: "This is clearer and more accessible than the earlier version. I think it’s a faithful interpretation of the law, and it links well with other commission guidance. Most importantly, it doesn’t impose on trustees the commission’s opinion of what the best way to run a charity is."

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