Govt rejects proposals to make it easier for charities to challenge regulator

The government has rejected proposals to give charities greater flexibility to challenge decisions made by the Charity Commission.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has thrown out the recommendations in its response to the Law Commision’s Technical Issues in Charity Law report that aims to simplify the rules surrounding charities.

But while ministers have accepted “the vast majority” of the report’s 43 recommendations, the government does not agree with proposals around giving charities more flexibility to challenge decisions made by the Commission.

Currently charities can challenge certain decisions made by the Charities Commission using the first tier tribunal process.

This “provides a low-cost, user-friendly way for charities to challenge” some decisions, according to the government’s response.

The Law Commission had proposed that charities should be able to get authorisation to pursue charity proceedings from the court as well as the Charity Commission.

But the government’s response says “this would remove an important protection of charity assets” as Charity Commission approval “prevents charity funds being wasted on litigation that is without merit”.

It adds: “They also ensure that disputes are dealt with in the appropriate forum because the Charity Commission cannot, without special reasons, authorise the taking of charity proceedings if it considers that the dispute concerned can be resolved using its regulatory powers.

“The Charity Commission is concerned that allowing applicants to seek authorisation from the court directly would significantly weaken these protections.

“This is because the court would not be expressly obliged to consider whether the dispute could be resolved by the Charity Commission.”

Civil society minister Baroness Barran said: “In principle, we accept the vast majority of the report’s 43 recommendations and will look to implement them when Parliamentary time allows.

"Ensuring that there is a modern, strong and flexible legal framework for charities is just one element of the government’s work to create a more effective, sustainable and impactful charity sector."

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