William Shawcross, chair of the Charity Commission, has said that a possible charging regime for charities might seek payment from charities with annual incomes of more than £100,000.
He was speaking at the start of a public meeting organised by the commission in Manchester yesterday.
Introducing the event, Shawcross said it was a shame that government cuts to the commission's funding, which have totalled nearly 50 per cent in real terms between 2007/08 and 2015/16, meant that it had had to change how it operated in various ways. "It is true that, because of the great cutbacks, guidance is getting harder to give and I'm very sorry about that," he told attendees.
Shawcross again raised the proposal that the commission might introduce some sort of charging system for charities, originally recommended in Lord Hodgson’s review of the Charities Act 2006.
Shawcross said that the Solicitors Regulation Authority, which is similar in size to the Charity Commission, charged solicitors for its services.
"One of the things we are considering is whether we should ask big charities to contribute to the financial affairs of the regulator," said Shawcross. He said it might apply to charities with annual incomes of £100,000 or more.
He said that some charities the commission had canvassed on the matter were "perfectly open to the idea".
Speaking at the end of the day, an attendee who did not identify herself, told the meeting she thought a threshold of £100,000 was too low. "That's not a large charity," she said. "That's only about four staff, so I found that a bit alarming."
Shawcross had left at that point, but Sarah Atkinson, head of information and communications at the commission, said she had taken note of the concern.
Of the total of 164,108 charities on the register, 30,937 have annual incomes of more than £100,000. Of those charities, 14,099 have incomes of between £100,000 and £250,000.
Shawcross said he thought Paula Sussex, who had arrived at the regulator at the start of the week, was "going to be a remarkably good chief executive".
He also welcomed the Protection of Charities Bill, which the government will introduce to increase commission powers, but said he regretted the delay.
He had opened the meeting by returning to a favourite refrain in explaining to attendees what the commission was. "We are not the Stasi," he said. "We are the friendly policeman."