New inquiries tripled last year, says regulator's annual report

In the year to 31 March 2017, some 187 inquiries were opened by the Charity Commission, compared with 52 in the previous financial year

Commission's annual report
Commission's annual report

The number of charities subject to new Charity Commission inquiries more than tripled in the year to 31 March 2017 compared with the previous 12 months, the regulator’s annual report shows.

The report, published today, shows that the number of charities subject to new inquiries rose from 52 in the 2015/16 financial year to 187 in 2016/17, although this figure includes two class inquiries: one into charities that failed to file accounts for two years running and one into charities providing services on Royal Air Force bases.

The two class inquiries each comprised 74 charities. Excluding the long-running "double-defaulter" inquiry and counting the RAF investigation as a single inquiry, the total number of new inquiries opened this year was 40, which was still an 80 per cent increase on the 22 opened the year before, also excluding double defaulters.

The report says there was an increase in the number of "charities being referred for inquiry in order to deal with serious regulatory concerns".

The report also reveals that the commission used the powers it gained under the Charities (Protection and Social Investment) Act 2016 a total of 26 times, including 18 times in April and May this year.

It says the regulator used its powers eight times in the financial year ending 31 March 2017 and a total of 26 times by 31 May 2017.

The act, which came into force in March 2016, gave the commission new powers to issue warnings to charities and to disqualify people from serving as trustees.

The commission’s annual report says the actions the commission took under the act in the 2016/17 financial year included "directing actions not to be taken and issuing the first notice of our intention to issue an official warning".

A commission spokeswoman said the sharp increase in the use of the new powers in April and May had occurred partly because more of the powers became available at that time and partly because of cases such as that of the Anatolian People's Cultural Centre, where five trustees were disqualified, which would count as five separate uses of the power.

In 2016/17, the commission opened 503 monitoring cases, up from 462 the previous year, and concluded 586, up from 426.

The number of applications to register a charity rose from 8,198 to 8,368, and 6,045 were successful, an increase from 5,169. Of these, 131 applications were formally rejected by the commission, an increase of 90 on the previous year.

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