Number of registered charities reaches highest level in almost a decade

Figures from the Charity Commission also show that the collective annual income of charities in England and Wales passed £75bn for the first time last year

An entry on the Charity Commission's online register
An entry on the Charity Commission's online register

The number of charities listed on the Charity Commission’s register has risen to a nine-year high of more than 168,000 and their collective income has increased to above £75bn for the first time, according to the regulator.

Figures released today show that 168,237 charities in England and Wales were registered with the regulator on 31 December 2017, which is the first time since 31 December 2008 that more than 168,000 charities have been listed.

The latest figures show that the charities on the register collectively had a gross annual income of £75.35bn in 2017, which was an increase of more than £2.24bn year on year and more than £30bn a year more than in 2007.

The number of larger charities with incomes of more than £10m a year increased by 18 in 2017, rising to 1,209 compared with 1,191 in 2016. Most of the income growth came from larger charities, which had a combined gross annual income of more than £47.05bn in 2017, compared with £45.47bn the year before, the figures show.

Large charities with incomes of more than £10m a year now account for 62.4 per cent of the overall income of charities on the register, which is an increase of almost 12 percentage points on 2007.

The number of registered charities has been rising by between approximately 1,000 and 1,500 a year since 2009, when just 160,515 were listed. However, the figures did fall back in slightly in 2011.

In November, Helen Stephenson, chief executive of the commission, said that it required more funding to cope with the higher number of charities it now regulated. The number of charity registrations has increased by 40 per cent over the past four years, but its funding has been frozen at £20.3m a year until 2020. 

Paul Streets, chief executive of the Lloyds Bank Foundation for England and Wales, which funds small and medium-sized charities, said the data showed an increasing gap between larger and small charities.

"Today’s figures confirm what we and others have reported on and see day to day: that the voluntary sector is seeing a growing divide between a relative handful of larger charities getting ever bigger and taking a larger proportion of the sector’s total income, while the vast majority of small and local charities are literally struggling to survive," he said. 

He added that although many larger charities did fantastic work, the demise of the construction company Carillion showed that big was not always best. 

"Charities big or small need always be clear about their mission and purpose, and should be driven by those they serve, not just their size or market share," said Streets. 

"Meanwhile, the government needs to reform its whole approach to commissioning and contracting from one that has favoured scale and price to one that is focused on and values quality and specialism."

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