Sector requests changes to Bill

The grievances of a dozen charities that claim to have been unfairly treated by the Charity Commission will be submitted to the Joint Parliamentary Committee that is scrutinising the draft Charities Bill tomorrow.

The report, which was created by campaigning group the Association for Charities, will be used to lobby the pre-legislative committee to change the regulator's investigatory powers.

Andrew Brown, the report's editor, said its purpose is to challenge existing charity law, which enables the commission to place receivers into investigated charities at their expense.

"It will suggest ways to improve the present regulatory regime by narrowing the scope for abuse of charities, trustees and beneficiaries," he said.

Case studies such as the Little Gidding Trust and RSPCA Swansea will be featured, alongside current cases such as the Kingsway International Christian Centre. The church incurred auditors' costs for one year while the commission carried out an investigation (Third Sector, 21 January).

Brown said the report will provide powerful evidence for the creation of an appeal tribunal, which is in the draft Bill, and for reforming Section 18 of the 1993 Charities Act concerning receivers and managers, which is not.

He added: "The association is seeking to strengthen the commission through exposing its shortcomings and aiding parliament to produce a new Charities Act by providing an effective and accessible means of appeal and redress."

The association plans to publish a "few hundred" copies of the book on 14 June, which it will present to interested MPs and the charity press.

Chief executives' body Acevo gives evidence to the scrutiny committee today. It will call for a proposal to allow charities to trade without the need to set up a trading subsidiary to be reinstated in the Charities Bill.

The recommendation, which was included in the original Private Action, Public Benefit report and enjoyed wide support from the sector, was rejected by the Home Office last summer. Acevo's policy officer Nick Aldridge said that that decision "threw the baby out with the bath water" and will perpetuate "unnecessary hassle" in charities' trading arrangements.

The NCVO will raise the issue of the Charity Commission's new regulatory objective of encouraging charities to maximise their social and economic impact.

According to NCVO policy officer Belinda Pratten, this will change the legal emphasis to "what charities do rather than what they are there for".

She said the NCVO was also concerned about the emphasis of expanding the role of the commission.

See News in Focus, p12.

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