Matthew Steeples argues the case for scrapping the Charity Commission
The Charity Commission recently appointed a new chairman, William Shawcross CVO. The author and journalist is to be paid an astonishing £50,000 for just two days work a week and even he himself admits he’s taken on a “a poisoned chalice”.
My own experience of this toothless quango came when I complained to it about a “charity” run a woman once described by The Telegraph as “Chanel-clad”. Though this organisation was publicly condemned in relation to the pay of this particular executive by several respected individuals including Janet Street-Porter, the Charity Commission’s attitude was astonishing. Their response was simply to answer: “Complain to the trustees”. The Charity Commission, it seems, chooses to ignore complaints and prefers to protect charities and their trustees.
Frankly, that lackadaisical attitude summed up exactly why I believe this quango should be scrapped but now that Mr Shawcross has decided that the Commission should focus on fighting terrorism and the “politicisation of charities” my thoughts are redoubled.
Janet Street-Porter once argued that “the giving sector is a mess”. In fact, it’s an almighty mess. Many readers will, for example, be horrified to learn that the highest paid member of staff at the Royal Opera House, a registered charity, is paid some £714,000 a year. That the Charity Commission has not taken the decision to criticise this wasteful use of gifted money about says it all.
The Charity Commission, just as was the case with the Press Complaints Commission, is a dying dog. Let’s just put it down.
The sooner the better.
The fact the Charity sector, was, during Blair’s “presidency” branded as The Third Sector, made these organisations lackadaisical and greedy.
I was in the room when Cameron relaunched the Big Society. Everyone there was a CEO of a respected charity, and almost without exception they were against the idea because they felt that they wouldn’t be getting anymore Government money.
It didn’t occur to a single one of them, that they are Charities and shouldn’t be funded by the Government, but instead, be self-sufficient.
I would go further replace charities with rights, why should anyone be a charity case,?
Interesting article and something I have not thought about much. The way some charities appear to be run reminds me of many companies listed on the junior stock market (AIM) for small companies which I invest in – or as my wife says – ‘gamble’ on.
Those companies seem similar to this situation in the sense that they are run for the benefit of directors rather than shareholders. Basically, an AIM listed company director will, over a period have a number of fundraisings and eventually run the company into the ground and then start off elsewhere and do the same all over again. The idea is that they continue paying themselves massive salaries and bonuses for as long as possible.
Now you might think by what I say that these companies are not regulated. Well officially they are – by the Financial Conduct Authority (the old FSA) but like the Charity Commision, is a waste of space. Fraud and market abuse happens daily but the FCA largely ignore this smaller market.
I think you could abolish the Charity Commission but you need something in its place which is much more effective. Like the FCA they probably do not have anywhere near enough staff to even make a small difference. The problem is the reputation of AIM is terrible to the point most people have now completely lost confidence in the market. When people lose confidence here , it will be the genuine charities and smaller well run ones which suffer.
I really do not know what the answer is. Most regulators in most sectors do some good work but overall are ineffectivea and wasteful. I think regulators in many sectors need to be completely reorganised to restore public confidence. The main issue for me is there is usually no accountability and transparency in their work and who they select for investigation etc and that’s the first thing that needs changing.
Finally one suggestion which has been tried in desperation by consumers is the ‘name and shame’ websites. The ‘Solictors from Hell’ website was one such example prompted by the failure of the regulator for solicitors in England and Wales to regulate. Unfortunately though perhaps this is not an option as the judge who took such a dislike to Sally Bercow the other week closed that site down on the basis that ‘even if none of the the negative comments on ‘Solicitors from Hell’ were defamatory, the coverage amounted to ‘harassment’ of solicitors.
You have to laugh sometimes.
At a time when there are such severe cuts in vital public services , think of shortage of nurses and teachers, it is ludicrous to have undeservingly highly paid charity” jobs”. Someone like Mt Shawcross should do the honourable thing and do this Pro Bono. Same goes for a number of other high profile charity appointments. The charity Commission has failed many times to assume its primary role as Matthew Steeples sharply points out in the article. It should either be totally rehauled or closed down indeed.
As Chair of Trustees of a charity, I completely disagree. To say there is no need for charities is an absolute nonsense. Certainly abuses need to be rooted out and you need to distinguish between not-for-profit entities and proper charities – as well as shutting down tax avoidance/evasion schemes, which are reprehensible. The CC does invaluable work across many fields and offers significant guidance to those o us volunteers engaged in the sector.
Michael: I have not said there is “no need for charities”, I’ve said that the Charity Commission is what needs to be abolished. Having complained to it about a disgraceful situation, I found them totally uninterested in doing anything about it. They are weak and lily-livered.
I concur with Matthew.
it would be interesting if anyone can come up with some evidence that the Charity Commission has performed or enacted something useful and valuable to justify its high costs .
Charity Trustees should work pro bono. I am a Trustee of a UK charity pro bono indeed.
Today, this ridiculously highly paid individual sent me a fatuous email regarding the suspension of Charity Giving. They have taken control of OUR money, with it seems, little prospect of us seeing it in the future. We have no idea why such a draconian measure was taken. We, as a registered charity, have been paid by Charity Giving, in full and on time every month. The CC says they have been investigating since 2011!!!!! yet nothing seems to have made them think in all that time that there was a danger we would not be paid yes 3 days before a payment is due they freeze all our money and, dismissively say they realise charities and their donors will be ‘concerned’!!! They do not have a clue, lying in their feathered, quango beds they have no idea how we, after all our hard work, feel at being deprived of our funds. What about all the people who ran their 10k, swam Lake Windemere etc for us? Tell them Mr Shawcross knows they are concerned! We know nothing of the , presumably ‘fat cat’ crony they have appointed. Who pays him his, no doubt, enormous salary? Is it going to be our money? Is that what we worked so hard for? You may guess I am pretty upset and writing this at 3am but, before anyone suggests it, I really don’t think this action was taken in our best interests. The way this has been handled is totally appalling and smacks of a random piece of PR to deflect attention from some recent bad publicity.