BWB Briefing for Charities and Social Enterprises

BWB Highlights

Last week’s announcement of a new Bill to set out specific social investment powers for charities is fantastic news. See today’s Briefing for more detail and comment from BWB Partner Luke Fletcher.

This week's Briefing covers the period from Monday 18th to Friday 29th May.


At a glance

The Queen’s speech included the announcement of a Charities (Protection and Social Investment) Bill.

The Charity Commission is holding a public meeting in Birmingham on 9 July 2015, where topics covered will include campaigning - what you can and can’t do, and lessons from the election.

The Fundraising Standards Board has published the terms of reference for its investigation into concerns about charity fundraising practices, prompted by allegations that Olive Cooke was overwhelmed by fundraising requests.

The Fundraising Standards Board has also published an adjudication report prompted by a telephone fundraising complaint .

The Electoral Commission has published its 15th Campaigner update on the rules on non-party campaigning.

Nfpsynergy has produced a free guide for charities on key issues when a charity wants to change its name.


Queen's speech - charity law reform

The Queen’s speech included the announcement of a Charities (Protection and Social Investment) Bill. See:

  • here for the press release from the Cabinet Office about the Bill;
  • here for the press release from the Charity Commission welcoming the Bill; and
  • here for the draft bill itself.

The Charity Commission has published a policy paper setting out the Commission's initial thinking on how it would use the statutory power proposed in the Charities (Protection and Social Investment) Bill 2015 to disqualify individuals from acting as trustees.

Commenting on the provisions relation to social investment, BWB’s head of social finance, Luke Fletcher said “A new statutory power to engage in social investment, along the lines recommended by the Law Commission, is a big legal leap forwards and should lead to the spread of innovative approaches to financing good things already being deployed by foundations. As a firm, we have been pushing for the law to be strengthened for some time, so it is great news to see a statutory power will be on the books.”


Charity Commission

Has opened a statutory inquiry into Bristol Sheltered Accommodation & Support Limited. The regulator is investigating potential regulatory concerns identified including, poor financial controls at the charity, the management of conflicts of interest and related party transactions leading to potential significant private benefit.

Has published inquiry reports into the following “double defaulting” charities:

Is holding a public meeting in Birmingham on 9 July 2015. The Chief Executive Paula Sussex will be there and topics covered will include:

  • trustee duties and responsibilities;
  • financial accountability issues;
  • managing reserves; and
  • campaigning - what you can and can’t do, lessons from the election.

Law Commission charity law reform project

The Law Commission (which is carrying out a charity law reform project separate to the Bill announced in the Queens’ Speech) is holding a consultation event in Bristol on Wednesday 10th June. For details and how to register for a free place see here.


Company law reform

PSC register reminder - From January 2016, the new requirement for companies to maintain a register of individuals or entities that have significant control over the company will take effect. Companies that have people or entities that own or control more that 25% of the equity or voting rights, or can appoint or remove a majority of the directors will most likely be caught by the rules. We will begin to get a clearer sense of the circumstances that will trigger the requirement to maintain the PSC register from October 2015 when the government issues statutory and ongoing practical guidance on the application of rules. More information about the PSC rules and other forthcoming changes to company legislation can be found in the Spring edition of our Charity and Social Enterprise Newsletter, which is available here.


Tax and VAT

HMRC has updated its guidance on VAT for charities but has not flagged what has changed.

Civil Society Media reports the transitional period for a change on VAT charges on direct mail sent by charities has now been extended to 31 July. Originally HMRC was to require full 20% VAT on all contracts for direct mail from 1 April. The extension is down to the delay in issuing its guidance on the rule changes, now due out 5 June.


Social finance

Nick Donohue, Chief Executive of Big Society Capital, has written an open letter to the new government about social investment over the next 5 years.

Big Society Capital also recently celebrated its 3rd birthday and published its latest annual report.


Social enterprise

Social Enterprise UK has published this blog about the implications of the Queen’s Speech for social enterprises.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the introduction of the Community Interest Company (“CIC”). BWB is pleased to be involved with two events being organised by the CIC Regulator to mark the anniversary. The first is in Bristol on Thursday 16th July at 11.30 The event is free to attend but you need to register in advance. BWB will be hosting the second event at its offices in London on 10 September. BWB’s David Hunter, who has been involved, with others, in setting up the events, says, “We are delighted to help mark the 10th anniversary of the CIC, particularly as our late colleague Stephen Lloyd played such a huge part in the introduction of this new legal form."


Education

Early years - On 1st June David Cameron announced that the government will bring forward plans to double free childcare for working parents - with some families set to benefit as early as next year.

Schools - On 22 May 2015, the High Court held that a council's amendment to its home to school transport policy in relation to the faith schools in its administrative district was unlawful.


Faith-based organisations

See item under Education above.


Change of name

Nfpsynergy has produced this free guide for charities on key issues when a charity wants to change its name.


Public bodies

See item under Information below.


Public procurement

BWB's David Hunter has published this blog on procurement issues.


Information

The Court of Appeal has dismissed two appeals against decisions by the Upper Tribunal (UT) that information requests could be refused on the grounds that they were vexatious (under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA)) or manifestly unreasonable (under regulation 12(4)(b) of the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (SI 2004/3391) (EIR). The appeals related to requests for information made by two individuals to Devon County Council.


Campaigning

The Electoral Commission has published its 15th Campaigner update on the rules on non-party campaigning. It provides information about:

  • paying invoices for campaign spending?
  • reporting after the election
  • government review of third party campaigning
  • may 2016 polls

Fundraising

The Fundraising Standards Board (FRSB) has published the terms of reference for its investigation into concerns about charity fundraising practices, prompted by allegations that Olive Cooke was overwhelmed by fundraising requests. The investigation, which commenced on 18th May shortly after the Prime Minister issued a statement asking the FRSB to look into the matter, is being undertaken by the FRSB executive team and overseen by the Board’s Compliance & Standards sub Committee, consisting of independent Board directors. There are two principal strands to the investigation: the circumstances leading to Mrs Cooke feeling overwhelmed by contact from charities; and identification of key learnings from the 300+ public complaints received by the FRSB following Mrs Cooke’s death. Any complaints relating to a specific FRSB member’s fundraising activities will be put through the FRSB’s standard complaints process. An interim report is expected in early June.

Civil Society Media reports Chris Grayling, Leading of the House of Commons as saying in response to a question about the behaviour of charities towards Olive Cooke “This Government will bring forward measures to address issues in the charitable sector.” This is probably a reference to the campaign for an ‘Olive’s Law’ to regulate fundraising to be tacked onto the end of the Protection of Charities Bill.


Possible reform of pensions/employer debt

From March to May 2015 the Department for Work and Pensions consulted on possible reforms. Civil Society Media reports here on a response to the consultation filed by Charity Finance Group.


Posted on 03/06/2015 in Legal Updates

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