At a glance

The Charity Commission has published two reports on the quality of charity accounts.

The government has published its response to the joint Parliamentary Committee's pre-legislative scrutiny report on the draft Protection of Charities Bill.

The Consumer Rights Bill has now made the transition to the Consumer Rights Act, with the majority of its provisions due to be brought into force from 1st October 2015.

The Cabinet Office has published a letter to the Social Impact Investment Taskforce, providing an update on progress made by Government on the 8 recommendations in the Taskforce report

HMRC has updated its detailed guidance notes for Community Amateur Sports Clubs to include changes introduced from 1st April.

Government has published four further guidance documents on aspects of the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 which came into force in February 2015.

The Parliamentary Culture Media and Sport Committee has published a report on the regulation of society lotteries.


Charity Commission

Has published updated guidance reflecting changes to audit thresholds which came into force on 31st March.

Has published two reports on the quality of charity accounts:

Following a decision review request, the commission has withdrawn consent previously given to Bradford District Council to allow it, as corporate trustee of Roberts Park (a charity owning parkland) to dispose of part of the parkland to itself.

Has published operational case reports into:

The Charity Commission continues its spotlight on “double defaulting” charities:

And has also opened new statutory inquiries into:

  • The Kurdish Community Centre for failing to fully implement an action plan the commission had set it.
  • The Christ Apostolic Church World Soul Winning and Evangelistic Ministry. The commission is investigating concerns raised in connection with the repossession of the charity’s land and property in London and the subsequent litigation and associated costs incurred by the trustees
  • Friends of Biala Limited. The commission is investigating concerns about the charity’s financial management and governance in connection with loans and invested funds in properties in the USA which appear to have resulted in losses to the charity of around £1.7 million.
  • The Cradle Child Trust. The commission is investigating concerns raised by a member of the public about the charity’s involvement in fundraising activities and possible impropriety by the charity’s trustees in connection with funds being raised.

Protection of Charities Bill

The government has published its response to the joint Parliamentary Committee's pre-legislative scrutiny report on the draft Protection of Charities Bill. The government has accepted most, but not all, of the joint committee's recommendations. No further progress on the Bill is expected until after the election – and then it will depend whether the incoming government treats this as a priority.


Charity tribunal

A new appeal has been filed by The Steadfast Trust. No details are given of the appeal, but the trust was removed as a charity in February 2015, with the Register of Charities now showing it was “registered in error”. (It was originally registered in 2004).


Accounting and audit

See item about changes to the audit thresholds under Charity Commission above.


Consumer Rights Act 2015

The Consumer Rights Bill has now made the transition to the Consumer Rights Act, with the majority of its provisions due to be brought into force from 1st October 2015. The Act has been finalised now to give businesses 6 months to implement and educate staff about changes. The Trading Standards Institute has published Business Companion guidance on the Act which is split into a number of in-depth guides:

BIS is currently consulting on whether “micro” and “small businesses” should have broadly the same protections as consumers under the Consumer Rights Act, including in relation to digital content. "Micro businesses" are defined as firms (including sole traders) which employ 0 to 9 employees, and "small businesses" as firms which employ 10 to 49 employees. The consultation closes on 15 June 2015.


Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015

The Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015 has also received Royal Assent. The Act will introduce a ban on corporate directors and a requirement to keep a register of persons with significant control. BIS has published a range of fact sheets about changes introduced by the Act.


Social investment

The Cabinet Office has:

The Alternative Commission on social investment has published its report “After the Gold Rush”.


Education

The Deregulation Act 2015 contains a number of provisions affecting nursery schools, schools and colleges relating to setting school performance targets, adopting home-school agreements and setting school term and holiday dates.

The Advertising Standards Authority has upheld a complaint that it was misleading for an academy to describe itself as a “world class” school.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has published a guide for undergraduate students on their rights under UK consumer protection law in relation to the provision of educational services. The guide is intended for prospective and current students, and their advisers. It may also be of interest to higher education providers. The CMA has also produced a one page summary of this advice for students.


Health and social care

New rules since 1st April mean health and care providers have to make arrangements to prominently display their Care Quality Commission (CQC) rating. The CQC has issued guidance on how performance ratings should be displayed and has developed display material. Providers need to display the information on their websites as well as across premises, public entrances and waiting areas of care services. Providers who have already been rated have 21 days from 1 April to comply.

The Health and Safety (Safety and Quality) Act 2015 has received Royal Assent. It contains various measures intended to improve the safety and quality of health services and social care.


Sport

HMRC has updated its detailed guidance notes for Community Amateur Sports Clubs to include changes introduced from 1st April.


Procurement

Government has published four further guidance documents on aspects of the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 which came into force in February 2015. They are:

Guidance on awarding contracts

Guidance on amendments to contracts during their term

Dynamic Purchasing System Guidance

Guidance on the standstill period

BWB has been closely following the development of the new Public Procurement rules under the Public Contracts Regulations 2015, the European Directive on which they are based and the European Commission Social Business Initiative which informs them in important ways. BWB partner Julian Blake explains “A major element of these new provisions is providing clarification and emphasis, particularly in relation to social factors. This in part addresses past misconceptions which have made public procurement a problematic area.” Please contact Julian for further information on j.blake@bwbllp.com.


Information

Since 6th April, the law relating to nuisance calls and texts has changed. Previously, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) had to prove that a company caused ‘substantial damage or substantial distress’ making nuisance calls or sending spam text messages. Now the ICO just has to prove that the company was committing a serious breach of the law. The ICO press release quotes that the ICO has issued £360,000 of civil monetary penalties for nuisance calls and texts in the past year (Apr 14 – Mar 15).

Civil Society Media reports voluntary sector organisations which contract with government are likely to have to reveal more information about their activities under new rules announced by Francis Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office.

The Information Commissioner's Office has published “Transparency in outsourcing: a roadmap”. The report identifies four steps to greater transparency in this area: better contracts, transparency by design, legislation and standard contract terms.


Fundraising

Lotteries: The Parliamentary Culture Media and Sport Committee has published a report saying regulation of society lotteries should be changed to lift the burden on smaller lotteries and new lotteries starting up. Recommendations include:

  • For new lotteries, the current requirement for at least 20% of the ticket receipts from each lottery to be given to good causes (rather than allocated to prizes or operating expenses) should be spread over an extended period, perhaps three years, to help lotteries to cope with high start-up costs.
  • It would be a disincentive to innovation to increase the requirement for the minimum return of 20%, but it is not appropriate that large, well-established lotteries should provide only the minimum return to good causes
  • The 35% cap on operating costs other than prizes and money set aside for roll-overs should be reintroduced for the largest lotteries.
  • The limits on the single society large and small lotteries should be raised, following research by the Gambling Commission into what might be the appropriate limits, and that the limits should be reviewed every three years

For comment from the Institute of Fundraising, click here.

Payroll giving: The Government has signed a memorandum of understanding aimed at increasing transparency and clarity in information sharing between the government, charities and payroll giving agencies. The memorandum includes an agreement to work towards a standardised disbursement report provided by payroll giving agencies to charities. See here for comment from the Institute of Fundraising which was a signatory to the memorandum.

Event fundraising: The Local Government (Review of Decisions) Act 2015 introduces new provisions relating to local authorities' decisions to ban events on health and safety grounds.

Charities Aid Foundation has published the latest UK Giving report.

Lawrie Simanowitz, partner in BWB's Charity and Social Enterprise department, will appear in a live Third Sector debate at Royal Society of Arts on Monday 13 April as part of Fundraising Week. For more see here.


Mutuals

BWB, as part of a consortium with Baxendale business consultants, is a joint winner of the Cabinet Office Mutual Support Programme Design Competition to provide the new government with a practical structural proposal for continuing and improving the programme. BWB partner Julian Blake comments, “BWB emphasised the desirability of utilising existing public benefit sector expertise in mainstream public service delivery and the recognition that social enterprise is highly complementary to the programme’s promotion of employee participation models. We are hopeful the programme will continue post-election as this is an area which has broad cross-party support.” Other consortium members include: the E3M network of social enterprises; Bridges Ventures, Social Investment Business, the University of Northampton; CASS Business School; and The Centre for Public Scrutiny.


Northern Ireland

NICVA has reported savage funding cuts to organisations across the board in NI – including arts, environment, early years and services to offenders.

The Charity Commission for Northern Ireland has published two statutory inquiry reports:

  • the Ulster Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (USPCA), the second oldest animal welfare charity in the world. The inquiry was focused on addressing concerns with the administration and governance of the charity.
  • the charity Emergency Medical Services. Following work by CCNI to address several issues, members of the charity decided to close it down. The charity’s assets were subsequently dispersed to benefit similar charitable activities under supervision of CCNI and the charity was dissolved in November 2014.

The Charity Tribunal for Northern Ireland has issued a decision about whether the chair of a charity could bring an appeal against the institution of a statutory inquiry. It concluded he could not, on his own, bring an appeal – because the statute is worded to give a right of appeal to “persons” (plural) who have control or management of the institution. So any appeal cannot be instigated by a single person (whether trustee or manager) acting alone.

 


Posted on 10/04/2015 in Legal Updates

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