Commission formally responds to House of Lords report; rejects call for time limit on trusteeship

Written by Lauren Weymouth

The Charity Commission has formally responded to the House of Lords report on charities, accepting some recommendations, but rejecting the call for a time limit on trusteeship.

In its formal response to the report Stronger charities for a stronger society, the Commission said it accepted the importance of setting out its plans to start charging charities, as well as the recommendations made on improving guidance around mergers and serious incident reporting.

However, the charity regulator said it didn’t accept the Committee’s recommendation that it should offer a limited time for charity trusteeship.

The Charity Governance Code suggested there should be a nine-year time limit on trustee tenure. The regulator said it is “sympathetic to the principle” of the limit, but argued that charities “must develop their own policies in line with the requirements of their governing documents”.

"The commission will look to review our draft articles of association to better reflect the Charity Governance Code, when time allows,” it said.

"The commission understands that there may be many reasons why particular charities might be unable to follow this good practice. It believes that a mandatory time limit on trusteeship does not take these into account and would therefore be unworkable.”

The Commission initially responded to the report in December 2017, when it mainly welcomed the recommendations set out by peers’ as to the way in which the charity sector is governed, but declared it still had no plans to consult on a statutory duty to give employees time off for charity trustee roles.

The report had recommended the government holds a public consultation on the possibility of introducing a statutory duty to allow employees of organisations over a certain size to take a limited amount of time off work to perform trustee roles.

However, in its initial response, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said it will continue to “encourage employers to support employees who have charity trustee roles”, but there are “currently no plans” to consult on the possibility of introducing a statutory duty on employers to give employees time off for trustee work.

Despite this, the government was welcoming of the recommendations laid out by the Committee and highlighted its willingness to engage further with the charity sector.

The Committee's report suggested "poor consultation and ill-thought-through" policy proposals have caused “serious unease and disruption” to the work of charities. It recommended the government reviewed its approach to engagement with the sector before policy announcements are made, with a view to ensuring that charities feel better informed about legal changes that may affect them.

Responding to this recommendation, the government stated the Civil Society Strategy “provides an important opportunity to engage with civil society and improve partnerships between sectors and local communities to build a stronger and fairer society for all”.

“The strategy will look at how policies across government fit together to help shape a wider ambition for the voluntary sector and civil society as a whole. It will provide greater clarity and coherence on how government and partners can work together for a stronger civil society,” the government said.

Commenting on the government's response, charities minister Tracey Crouch said the report was “well-considered” and “reflects a breadth of charity sector expertise and experience in the House of Lords.

“I thank the Committee for its well-considered report and am also grateful to all those charities and others who gave evidence to the Committee and contributed to its conclusions and recommendations,” she said.

“Through our Civil Society Strategy I want to engage in discussion with all our partners on how we can best work together to bring about a step change in the potential of civil society in tackling some of the most important and difficult social challenges we face. I look forward to the conversations ahead and to working with you on these issues over the coming months and years.”

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