Trustees could be deterred by charities' difficult operating environment, Charity Commission's Wales head says

Harry Iles tells commission public meeting that charities are finding it harder to recruit board members 'because everyone is aware of the pressure that will be on them'

Harry Iles
Harry Iles

Finding trustees is becoming harder because of the difficult operating environment for charities, a Charity Commission public meeting heard yesterday.

Harry Iles, head of the commission's Wales office, told the meeting in Cardiff that it was getting harder to find trustees "because everyone is aware of the pressure that will be on them".

Iles said a fall in charitable income could discourage people from becoming trustees. But he said income for charities in Wales had not fallen as steeply as in England because of intervention from the Welsh assembly government.

"My impression is that in Wales the assembly has buffered the economic impact on charities in a way that hasn't happened in England," he said. "I don't think we’ve seen the dramatic drops we expected but everyone expects that they are on the way."

Iles also said that he felt the commission should do more to examine accounts, to reject accounts which did not comply with accounting rules, and to publicise the problems.

"Our impression is that charity accounts are getting better," he said, in response to a question. "You say we should assess more, feed back more and publish more of what we’ve done on our website. I think you’re probably right."

He said that charities faced problems with VAT on agreements with local authorities. These are treated differently for tax purposes if they are grants than if they are contracts, but HM Revenue & Customs has not published clear guidance defining the differences between the two.

Iles said the commission was not in a position to give definitions, but could try to signpost charities to useful information.

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