In which Kathy Faulks, Support Worker (Group Development) at Voluntary Action Leeds meets William Shawcross, chair of the Charity Commission.
I was pleasantly surprised by the affability and warmth of Mr Shawcross at a public meeting held by the Charity Commission at Greater Manchester Centre for Voluntary Organisation (GMCVO). Indeed, Mr Shawcross introduced himself to every participant before the meeting began and asked each of them if there was any matter relating to the Charity Commission that we might want to mention to him. I was not lost for words and pointed out that Voluntary Action Leeds would like to see more emphasis on good practice from charities. Mr Shawcross then introduced me to one of the Charity Commission officers to bring our viewpoint to her attention. Mr Shawcross surprised me even more by suggesting that he would like to meet our diverse charities in Leeds. However, he is no doubt a busy person and it was a nice thing to say.
Praise for charities
Mr Shawcross than gave his presentation and it was a delight to hear great praise heaped on charities! He cited charity trustees as “the greatest people in England and Wales” (remember that the Charity Commission covers England and Wales and that there are separate registration agencies in Scotland, Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man and Jersey - just thought you might like to know!).
A golden thread
He went on to eulogise charities as a “golden thread running through the living tapestry of our history” (William Beveridge). He acknowledged the wonderful charitable work carried out by smaller charities, many with an income of less than £20,000. Mr Shawcross went on to lament the massive budget cuts to the Charity Commission which he reflected will reach a point where the Commission can no longer be effective. The Commission is expected to do “too much with too little.” There will be a 6% cut in 2015-16 unless the government can be persuaded to change its mind. He referred to a “roller coaster ride” since he became chair in 2012. However, a new pro active board was appointed last year.
Finally, Mr Shawcross commented that the vast majority of charities are well run with good people. “Most mistakes are innocent rather than self serving or malicious”. He also warned that the Charity Commission is considering asking larger charities to contribute to regulation costs.
All in all, It was a worthwhile public meeting with presentations on conflict of interest, preventing fraud, safeguarding and trustee duties in respect of campaigning and the Lobbying Act. The Charity Commission at its best!