The stories of the month: Policy & politics

The government will introduce legislation to put the National Citizen Service on a permanent statutory footing and bring in a bill to reform the Gift Aid Small Donations Scheme, it was announced in the Queen's speech. The NCS bill is expected to introduce a new duty on schools, councils and government departments to promote the NCS. The Small Charitable Donations Bill will be used to reform the GASDS, which allows charities to claim Gift Aid-like relief on up to £8,000 of small cash donations each year without individual paperwork.

Rob Wilson, the Minister for Civil Society, has said charities should feel free to campaign in the run-up to the EU referendum. Speaking at the National Council for Voluntary Organisations' annual conference, he said campaigning was a legitimate activity for charities before the 23 June vote. His comments come after the Charity Commission published guidance on the EU referendum last month, criticised by some in the sector as misinterpreting the law and putting pressure on charities not to get involved. An amended version of the guidance was published two weeks later.

Charities that receive government grants could face more stringent financial checks after the collapse of Kids Company, according to the government's response to a parliamentary report on the charity. The House of Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee report on Whitehall's relationship with Kids Company had said the charity's closure happened because of an "extraordinary catalogue of failures of governance and control at every level". In its response, the government said it accepted the committee's recommendation that the government should not rely on the existence of signed-off audited accounts as an assurance that a charity is financially well-managed or well-governed, and should ask to see management letters and seek direct assurance from the auditor.

The charity sector must improve its transparency or risk being seen as less open than the private and public sectors, according to Sir Stuart Etherington, chief executive of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations. At the NCVO's annual conference, he warned delegates that all charities must be prepared to answer uncomfortable questions if the charity sector was to maintain public and political faith.

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