Charging for regulation ‘quite a way off’ says Commission legal expert

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Kenneth Dibble

A levy on large charities to fund regulation is “possibly quite a way off” from being implemented, according to the Charity Commission's senior legal expert.

Kenneth Dibble, a legal member of the regulator's board, and its former legal director, also said that it is "going to go nowhere if the charity community pushes back against it very strongly".

Last November, chief executive Helen Stephenson announced the regulator’s plan to consult the sector on a plan to charge the 2,000 largest charities a flat rate of £3,500 to raise £7.5m.

But speaking at the Armed Forces Charities' Seminar in London yesterday, Dibble said the planned consultation had already been delayed from the summer to the autumn by new chair Baroness Stowell.

He said: “It has been held up recently because of the new chair has decided that she wants quite properly to have an overview of this and to be absolutely sure that this will fall within her time as chair of the Commission.

“She wants to be absolutely satisfied that this is fit for purpose before it goes out to consultation and that process is going on now. We did want this to emerge this summer. It is looking like more towards the autumn now.”

He said the consultation would be delayed until the Commission was sure it had an option that charities and ministers would all find acceptable, because "this is going to go nowhere if the charity community pushes back against it very strongly".

Dibble said following the consultation, which would likely last three months, the proposal would require primary legislation to be passed, which could be difficult due to Brexit dominating the parliamentary timetable in the coming months.

He said: “So in terms of seeing the light of day, this is possibly quite a way off. It would depend on legislative timetables and availability.”

Aware of concerns

Dibble said the regulator had had its funding cut in half over the past 10 years, which had forced it to scrap units to support larger charities and organisations looking to merge.

He said while the Commission had recently received £5m a year of short-term funding from the government to cover its core costs, it still planned to use money from the levy to support its enablement work.

Dibble said he recognised that there were “quite strong opponents” of the proposal, who argue “that the benefits of charity extend to everybody and therefore the state should pay”.

However, he said: “The Commission is one of the few regulators left where the regulated sector does not contribute to its own regulation.”

Dibble took up his current role in March after being the Commission’s senior legal adviser for five years.

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