The National Council for Voluntary Organisations has warned the Charity Commission against taking too much of a light-touch approach in regulating the public benefit requirement.
The umbrella body made the point in its response to the commission’s consultation on public benefit, which closed yesterday.
"The draft guidance put forward in this consultation is further evidence of the Charity Commission taking a more permissive approach to its regulation of charities, particularly its light-touch approach to the duties of charity trustees," the response says.
"We agree that it is a matter of judgement for the trustees of each charity to address and assess how their public benefit obligations might best be fulfilled in the context of their own particular circumstances. Therefore the explicit recognition that it is for the charity trustees to decide how to run their charity for the public benefit is a positive one.
"However, the NCVO has also always maintained that it is important to have a strong regulator that ensures standards are maintained for public trust and confidence, and policing the public benefit requirement is a key part of this.
"It will therefore be a priority for the commission to fulfil its statutory duty to make sure trustees are providing a public benefit and intervene if it thinks this is not being done."
The Charity Commission revised its guidance on public benefit following a ruling by the Upper Tribunal that aspects of the guidance were wrong and launched a public consultation over the revisions in June.
The NCVO submission, which took into account the findings from its Charity Law Advisory Group, chaired by Baroness Howe of Idlicote and put together to shadow Lord Hodgson’s review of the Charities Act 2006, praises the online format of the guidance, which it says allowed trustees easier access to relevant sections.
It recommends that the commission considers producing downloadable documents on matters such as statutory guidance and specific short guides for each section of guidance.