Here’s a roundup of policy news from around the sector, including more information about the Code of Practice for non-party campaigners, the Autumn Statement and the King’s Speech.
New Code of Practice for non-party campaigners now in force
The Electoral Commission has published the new Code of Practice for non-party campaigners after receiving parliamentary approval. This is now in force and provides statutory guidance to organisations that aren’t political parties but may be carrying out campaigns during election periods (so called ‘non-party campaigners). Charities that engage in campaigns will want to familiarise themselves with this Code, which includes some helpful examples and clarifications.
The Electoral Commission and Charity Commission published a blog announcing the publication of the new Code. The chairs of the two regulators say that ‘Charities have a proud record of engaging in public debate and campaigning on behalf of their purposes which is entirely legitimate’ and point out that that they must do so consistent with the law, including elections law which governs certain spending at election times.
Then they repeat the argument that charities ‘can and should model a better kind of discourse’ and should campaign ‘in a manner that is respectful and tolerant’. While respect and tolerance are important concepts in general, there’s no legal requirement for trustees to follow these instructions apart from their general duty to protect the charity’s reputation. The Charity Commission’s own guidance, which the blog helpfully refers to, doesn’t mention these points.
Autumn Statement – did the Chancellor listen?
Ahead of the Autumn Statement, charities across the sector called for the Chancellor to address the continued underfunding of contracts and grants. Yet despite gaining 1,400 signatures, NCVO’s letter calling for action was overlooked and not considered. The knock-on effect of cuts to public sector budgets, which the Autumn Statement reinforced, means delivering services for public bodies will become increasingly untenable for charities.
Back in October, The Civil Society Group submitted a list of ‘asks’ to the Chancellor that would ensure people and charities get the fiscal support they need. Only one of the demands was met by the Chancellor, as he announced that VAT relief for the installation of energy-saving materials in buildings that are used solely for a relevant charitable purpose has been reinstated.
Read DSC’s analysis of the Autumn Statement here.
The King’s Speech – Growing the economy, strengthening society, and keeping people safe
On Tuesday 7 November, King Charles delivered his first King’s Speech, outlining the government’s legislative programme ahead of the next general election. The speech included 21 bills at various stages of the legislative process, packaged up under the banner of ‘growing the economy, strengthening society and keeping people safe’. Read our full summary on the implications for charities here.
Charity banking challenges
The Chief Executives of the Charity Commission, Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator and Charity Commission for Northern Ireland wrote to the UK’s main high street banks to demand urgent action to help charities facing long standing banking issues.
Charities have been having issues with banks for some time, finding themselves in the position where their accounts have been closed or suspended, experiencing poor customer service, but mostly finding that the systems in place do not match their needs. Read the Charity Commission’s letter to UK Banks here.
£2.7m was diverted from charities to fraudsters in 2023
In a new report, Action Fraud has revealed that more than £2.7m was diverted from the charity sector to fraudsters in the last year. Alongside this, The Charity Fraud Report by BDO has revealed that 4 in 10 charities experienced fraud last year.
As part of Charity Fraud Awareness Week (27-1 December), the Fundraising Regulator, Charity Commission and Action Fraud have joined forces to encourage people to give safely this winter. Here are some free tools to help you stop charity fraud.
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