Commission leaders publicly rebuked by CEO for being too negative

The Charity Commission’s leaders were chastised by a sector chief executive yesterday for inundating charities with warnings and threats instead of encouraging them by celebrating their great work.

Andrew Redfern, CEO at Framework Housing Association, also told the regulator’s chief executive and managers at the public meeting in Nottingham that their speeches were too long and preachy and did not allow enough time for interaction with the audience.

He said: “I came to this meeting this morning feeling pretty good but now, having heard what I’ve heard over the last hour and a half, I feel not exactly suicidal, but definitely nowhere near as good as I did when I came in.”

The audience had just heard an overview from Commission CEO Sam Younger about the Commission’s priorities and activities, a speech from head of first contact Neville Brownlee about the importance of filing annual returns on time, and a presentation from head of monitoring Dave Walker about the dangers of fraud in the sector and how charities can minimise the risk of fraud in their organisations.

Redfern said that he was already involved in the voluntary sector but if he had come to the meeting as an outsider considering becoming a trustee, “by now I would be thinking gosh, if this is what the sector’s like and that’s what the regulator’s like, that’s not for me, I’ll go and do something else with my time”.

“One of the biggest obstacles to people becoming trustees is they are scared,” he said, “scared that they will be inundated with information, with threats, with consultants wanting to talk to them about how not to be prosecuted under the Bribery Act or how not to be prosecuted for corporate manslaughter or fraud or whatever.

“I understand that the Commission is here for the public rather than charities themselves, but today you have reinforced what I had hoped was a prejudice about what regulators are like and what regulation is like.  You’ve spoken at us for one and half hours, leaving just a couple of minutes for questions at the end.

"Next time you hold a meeting like this, make it more interactive.  And think about what you can do more positively to engage more with charities about the work that they’re doing, and their achievements. 

"How can you give a message to trustees that yes, it is worth being a trustee, and that you're not going to end up being prosecuted for something provided you act in good faith, you are sensible and you take legal advice.  That’s what people need.”

Younger responds

The Commission’s chief executive Sam Younger responded that he was sorry Redfern felt depressed by the content of the speeches, and accepted that there “may be issues” with their tone and length.  

But he also pointed out that such public meetings are generally attended by people already in the sector, and that the regulator has a responsibility to “make sure than people don’t fall into traps that could make life difficult for them”.

This article was taken from Civil Society – http://www.civilsociety.co.uk/governance/news/content/15669/