Charities must act

New chief Charity Commissioner John Stoker has warned the voluntary sector that he will take a harder stance on regulation in future following widespread criticism that the Commission lacks the teeth to keep charities in check.

Stoker, who replaced Richard Fries as head of the Commission in July, told delegates at a charity conference in Manchester the Commission must do more than provide support and advice to charities. It must also meet its statutory duty under the Charities Act as regulator of the sector in England and Wales, he said.

With Stoker now in place, charities can expect a tougher line from the Commission on issues such as dead-lines for the submission of annual accounts.

‘I’m going to be looking for a sharper response in the next round of accounts submissions,’ he warned.

Stoker is sympathetic to views that the Commission should intervene more sharply in cases where organisations severely contravene charity regulations.

As one of the Commission’s fiercest critics, Commons Public Accounts Committee chairman David Davis has slammed the Commission in the past for being weak.

Stoker also revealed the exposure draft on the sector’s statement of recommended practice would be published later this year or early next year. He said this part of the review would be a process of consolidation and incremental growth and development. ‘We are not going to spring on you any big new requirements,’ he said.

‘There will not be any unpleasant surprises of that nature when you see the SORP.’

Stoker also said two new consultation documents would be issued in the autumn on modernising charitable status. These will be linked to the ongoing review of the register.

Stoker backs government moves to encourage closer working between charities and local authorities and urged greater use of charities’ lobbying voice in parliament.

‘There has never been, for very many years, such a favourable policy context as there is at the moment,’ he said.

Related reading

HMRC banknotes