Charity Commission EU referendum “negative” guidance

New regulatory guidance from the Charity Commission around charity engagement with the EU referendum is proving controversial.

The official news item says:

Political activity can be a legitimate activity for charities and some may want to engage with the referendum. However, the guidance sets out the threshold necessary to justify any charitable activity on this specific issue.

Unusually the guidance itself appears to be only available as a pdf, 133KB (3 pages): ‘The European Union Referendum – the Charity Commission’s regulatory guidance for charities‘.

NCVO reacted quickly with a piece saying that the guidance set the wrong tone:

“.. we are concerned that this guidance suggests that the Commission’s message to charities is that they cannot advocate a particular outcome in almost any circumstances, even if they have considered appropriate evidence and risks and come to a reasonable decision that doing so has an impact on the charity’s purposes.”

The article points to the Scottish charity regulator’s guidance for last year’s independence referendum as a “much more encouraging approach”. *

Civil Society News reports that the new regulatory guidance “has sparked widespread criticism by sector leaders today over its negative and prescriptive approach”.

Update, 29th March: Commission guidance on EU referendum gets ‘helpful’ revision.

* OSCR has now released its own EU referendum guidance.

Why sector voices should be heard

Following media coverage on this issue which focused on environmental groups, Greenpeace’s executive director wrote for The Guardian ‘Why green groups have a right to be heard on the EU referendum‘.

And Friends of the Earth’s chief executive has written to the Prime Minister to express concerns about the guidance from the Charity Commission and the way it was distributed in the media. As reported by Civil Society News.

Also see: ‘Charities’ voices are vital to the Brexit debate‘, written by the chief executive at the Sheila McKechnie Foundation for The Guardian.

International charities speak

Illustrating one of the sector points about the lateness of this guidance, international charities had already put forward their views warning of the impact of an exit from the European Union, in a letter published in The Guardian in late February.

Further coverage in Civil Society News, Stay in the EU, say top names in international charities, which also mentions the official Remain campaign’s claim that a Brexit could cost UK charities over £200 million a year.

Chance for community action

An article from New Start magazine suggest that, along with the upcoming Police and Crime Commissioner and local elections in May, the referendum provides ‘A four month window to promote community social action‘.