Umbrella bodies ask Electoral Commission to explain opposition to lobbying act reform

The NCVO, Acevo and Bond have written to chief executive Claire Bassett asking her to tell them why her organisation apparently came out against reforms suggested by a peer

Three charity umbrella bodies have called on the Electoral Commission to explain its apparent opposition to amendments to the lobbying act suggested by Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts.

The National Council for Voluntary Organisations, the chief executives body Acevo and the international development umbrella body Bond have written to Claire Bassett, chief executive of the Electoral Commission, asking her to explain her organisation’s apparent opposition to the amendments put forward by Hodgson in his government-commissioned review of the act.

The act sets spending limits and makes it a legal necessity for all organisations that spend more that £20,000 in England or £10,000 in Wales on regulated campaigning in the year prior to an election to register with the Electoral Commission. 

Hodgson’s review, completed last year, called for a number of reforms, including reducing the regulated campaign period to four months before an election and changes to the rules on joint campaigning.

The review also recommended that the scope of the lobbying act be reduced to include only activity intended to influence how members of the public vote.

But it emerged last month that the government had decided against enacting Hodgson’s reforms.

Today’s letter says the three charities recently had a meeting with Tracey Crouch, the Minister for Civil Society, and Chris Skidmore, the constitution minister, to discuss reform of the lobbying act.

It says the three organisations were extremely disappointed to hear that the government did not intend to take Hodgson’s recommendations forward “and that this is in part due to concerns raised by the Electoral Commission”.

It says: “We understand that as the body charged with enforcing the rules you may have a different view about some of the changes proposed, but we are aware that the Electoral Commission itself has found some parts of the act to be a challenge to implement and enforce.

“We also hope you will agree that by not enacting the reforms we risk continuing the confusion about the act, and allowing the problems we saw earlier this year to reappear at all future general elections.”

The letter asks the regulator to “clarify in detail what specific changes to the rules the Electoral Commission is opposed to”, and on what grounds.

“That would not only mean that we have a better understanding of our respective positions, but it could also enable an open conversation about possible solutions moving forward,” it says.

Sir Stuart Etherington, chief executive of the NCVO, said in a statement he was extremely disappointed by the commission’s position.

“What’s needed is an open conversation about how the rules on non-party campaigning can be changed so they meet their objective of ensuring fair elections,” he said.

“There is consistent evidence that the law has a detrimental impact on the ability and willingness of the voluntary sector to speak out. We need prompt answers from the Electoral Commission so that we can get that discussion under way.”

Asked to comment on the letter, an Electoral Commission spokesman said the regulator supported the majority of Hodgson’s recommendations in its formal response to the proposals last year, albeit with some areas of concern.

“Now it has been indicated that there will be no legislative reform to the rules, the government and others – ourselves included – must look for ways to work with campaigners to address inaccurate perceptions of the legislation so that charities and other third sector organisations can confidently continue their campaigning work,” he said.

“Charities and other non-party campaigners are vital to a healthy democracy and, as a society, we must encourage their active participation during, as well as outside of, election campaign periods. The non-party campaigner rules have been in place since 2000 and they do not prevent third parties from campaigning or engaging in public debate.”

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More than 100 charities call on minister to reform the lobbying act

A joint letter, addressed to the charities minister Tracey Crouch, calls for revisions to make the legislation less ‘confusing and burdensome’

A letter signed by 122 charity sector bodies, including the National Council for Voluntary Organisations and the Charity Finance Group, has called for reforms to the lobbying act amid concerns that the legislation limits charities’ participation in the democratic process.

The letter, which was organised by the international development network Bond and is addressed to Tracey Crouch, the Minister for Sport and Civil Society, calls for the implementation of the Conservative peer Lord Hodgson’s proposed revisions to the lobbying act to make the legislation less “confusing and burdensome”.

The lobbying act sets spending limits and makes it a legal necessity for all organisations that spend more that £20,000 in England or £10,000 in Wales on regulated campaigning in the year prior to an election to register with the Electoral Commission.

Hodgson’s review of the lobbying act, which was commissioned by the government and published its recommendations last year, called for a number of reforms, including reducing the regulated campaign period to four months before an election and changes to the rules on joint campaigning.

But the government has yet to implement Hodgson’s recommendations. The letter says that Crouch should work with the Cabinet Office to ensure parliamentary time is set aside to discuss Hodgson’s proposals, and that the act needs to be made less “vague and confusing”.

The letter says: “Charities and non-partisan campaign groups have spent significant time attempting to understand the legislation and how to comply. However, many of the rules are vague and confusing, especially for smaller organisations.

“While some organisations have sought legal advice to help them interpret the legislation, this can be expensive and is simply not an option for many. The rules on joint campaigning are also a concern for smaller charities and have made organisations more hesitant to collaborate.”

The letter says that the law might be excluding some charities from public debate.

“While we recognise that regulation is necessary to ensure that no one individual or organisation can exert undue influence at an election, the lobbying act has had a disproportionate impact on civil society campaigning,” the letter says.

“We are concerned that it caused many organisations not to engage in the run-up to the recent general election, and resulted in some important voices being lost from public debate.”

The chief executives of the charity chief executives body Acevo and the infrastructure body Navca have signed the letter, as well as major charities and campaigning organisations including Action for Children, the Charities Aid Foundation, WWF, Save the Children, Leonard Cheshire Disability, Greenpeace and the RSPB. 

Today’s letter comes after a similar missive in June organised by Friends of the Earth and and signed by more than 50 charities, which called for the lobbying act to be repealed.

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Благотворительная финансовая группа призывает HMRC освобождать торговые дочерние компании от реформ

CFG и шесть бухгалтерских фирм написали в Казначейство, в котором он призвал продлить освобождение от реформ цифровых налоговых записей

Благотворительные организации могут потерять миллионы фунтов, если их торговые дочерние компании не освобождаются от реформ HM Revenue & Customs до цифровых налоговых отчетов, согласно письму от благотворительной финансовой группы и шести бухгалтерских фирм.

Создание Tax Digital, которое будет внедрено HMRC в течение следующих четырех лет, заставит большинство предприятий внедрить цифровую регистрацию и ежеквартальные обновления.

HMRC уже подтвердил, что благотворительным организациям будет предоставлено освобождение, но в письме говорится, что это должно быть расширено, чтобы охватить торговые филиалы благотворительных организаций, которые в настоящий момент все равно должны будут принять предложения о внесении налоговых цифровых документов.

Письмо, адресованное Мел Страйд, недавно назначенному Финансовому секретарю Казначейства, говорит, что торговым дочерним компаниям благотворительных организаций в настоящее время разрешено продление на девять месяцев после их отчетных периодов для распределения налогооблагаемой прибыли через корпоративную подарочную помощь.

Эта идея, которая была введена, чтобы дать время благотворительности для расчета их налогооблагаемой прибыли, будет подорвана введением «Налогового цифрового кода», говорится в письме.

«Хотя трудно дать точную стоимость этого решения, мы считаем, что благотворительные организации могут быть вынуждены ежегодно выплачивать миллионы в виде сборов за цифровую отдачу, что не имеет реальной ценности для HMRC», – говорится в письме говорит.

«Мы высоко ценим, что освобождение уже было предоставлено благотворительным организациям, но мы полагаем, что было бы в духе этого решения продлить освобождение от полностью принадлежащих торговых дочерних компаний для благотворительных организаций».

Бухгалтерия Crowe Clark Whitehill, Mazars, Summers Morgan, Buzzacott, Wilkins Kennedy и BHP также подписали письмо.

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