Tories will not make public benefit test tougher, lawyers believe

Charity Law Conference delegates' prediction

Lawyers do not think a Conservative government would make the public benefit test tougher, according to a poll at yesterday's Charity Law Conference.

Votes were cast by about 120 delegates at the event, organised by solicitors Bates Wells & Braithwaite and the Directory of Social Change.

Asked whether they thought the Conservative Party would "reform the law to make the public benefit test tougher", only 25 per cent said ‘yes' and 75 per cent said ‘no'.

When asked whether they thought the Conservatives would "repeal the Charity Commission's obligation to issue public benefit guidance", 19 per cent said ‘yes'; 81 per cent said ‘no'.

Delegates were also sceptical about the prospects of the new legal form, the charitable incorporated organisation, being in place soon.

Asked "will it be possible to set up a charitable incorporated organisation by November 2009?", only 13 per cent replied ‘yes'; 87 per cent said ‘no'. Stephen Lloyd, a senior partner at Bates Wells who oversaw the voting, said it was "a pretty gloomy prediction".

In her keynote speech, Debra Allcock Tyler, chief executive of the DSC, warned charities not to be seduced by claims that voluntary organisations would have more power if they spoke with one voice.

"I'm not sure we ever can speak with one voice and I'm not convinced we should ever attempt it," she said. "I happen to believe the strength of us in the voluntary sector is our diversity."

Allcock Tyler likened charities to "odd-shaped fruits" and said they should resist the pressure to conform to whatever sizes and shapes were convenient to others.

"Remember your basic function," she said. "Stay connected with your inner apple."

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Directory of Social Change

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