A Chance for Change at the Charity Commission

The head of the Charity Commission, Dame Suzi Leather is stepping down. What qualities should her successor have if the Charity Commission is to meet the changing demands of the future and ensure the great tradition of charitable work is to continue? Here Professor Peter Luxton, author of Making Law: Parliament v the Charity Commission, gives some suggestions on the appointment:

The person who chairs the Charity Commission should have great experience of the legal regulation of the voluntary sector. He or she will need to ensure that the Commission operates within the law and that its reduced budget is applied effectively on the key areas that fall within its powers. These include the prevention and detection of fraud and dishonesty.

The new appointee will need to see that the Commission’s current guidance on political activity by charities is re-written and brought back within the law. The appointee must recognise the significance of the recent judgment of the Upper Tribunal in ISC v Charity Commission, particularly that decisions on matters that properly fall within the role of charity trustees are not to be usurped by the Commission. The taxpayers' purse must not be wasted on misguided policies. These have recently included the (ultra vires) 'public benefit assessments' which have been an unwelcome and unnecessary drain on charities’ funds.

The new appointee should be scrupulously non-partisan. What is needed is someone who respects, not undermines the rule of law by treating the Commission as an instrument of social engineering for which there is no basis in law.


Peter Luxton is Professor of Law at Cardiff University and author of Politeia pamphlet Making Law: Parliament v the Charity Commission.