The long-awaited draft Charities Bill has been published.
The draft contains “proposals to boost public confidence in charities, help
new and existing charities to work effectively, ensure that donations are used
properly and abuses are dealt with quickly and firmly”.
Measures included in the draft Bill are:
- a modern definition of charity to reflect what is and what ought to be
- measures to make it easier for charities to merge.
- improved accountability for the Charity Commission, including a new tribunal to deal with unresolved complaints.
- the creation of a new legal entity, the Charitable Incorporated Organisation, for charities that wish to take a corporate form. This will avoid dual regulation between charity and company law and provide an alternative to the company limited by guarantee model currently used by many charities.
- raising the threshold for compulsory registration
- simplifying the rules of audit for larger charities
- making it easier for charities to spend capital
- a new, updated and unified local authority licensing scheme for all types of public charitable collections
- measures to support charity trustees. Trustees will be able to apply directly
to the Charity Commission as well as to the courts for relief from personal liability for breach of trust. While not excusing fraud, it will protect trustees who have made honest mistakes, therefore encouraging more people to act as trustees. The draft Bill will also allow charities to pay trustees for specific services.
- ‘back up’ powers to enable statutory legislation should self-regulation of fundraising be unsuccessful
It is available in four sections, all published as Adobe Acrobat PDFs.
The Charity Commission were quick to welcome its publication. The Chief Charity Commissioner, John Stoker, said: “The proposals in the draft Bill provide practical benefits for virtually every charity, and contain a welcome definition of the Commission’s future role and responsibilities. It’s a good balanced
package of changes which help to clarify what’s charitable while keeping the common law flexibility which allows this diverse sector to develop. From our perspective, this is a win-win result which will
keep the charity brand at the heart of our society”.
Indeed the Charity Commission has dedicated the whole of its May 2004 issue of Charity Commission News to analysis of the draft Bill.
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