Charity Commission stops talking to the Final Third

Apparently the Charity Commission will now only supply their publications, e.g. guidance for new trustees, on line.  This effectively means that it has stopped communicating with many, perhaps most, of the trustees of charities in rural Britain.


This has potentially very serious effects on the plans of the coalition Government to involve local volunteers in “big society” initiatives to help serve rural communities – given that:


·         the population is ageing

·         many older trustees are not computer literate

(only half the respondents to the recent national Village Halls survey completed it on line)

·         the difficulties with rural broadband

·         the responsibilities of trustees

·         the cost and difficulty of printing documents in rural areas

(5 – 25 miles to the copy shop or to buy more print cartridges if you forget when shopping). 


The problem first came to my attention when I received a copy of an e-mail from some-one looking for new Trustees who discovered that the Charity Commission publications are now only available on-line – as part of cost-cutting measures. The person concerned supports green measures but pointed out that not everyone has access to the Internet so they now have to print the material locally – at considerably expensive.


On Sunday I am off to the Conservative Party Conference having marked off a whole series of fringe events on Public Service Delivery, Big Society and Skills to attend, as well as the CTF meeting on Broadband.


I wonder who will be lobbying who on this one?   


The attempts to drive the world on-line – before ensuring that:


  • the communications infrastructure is capable of delivering the necessary connectivity
  • the backhaul capacity is adequate to carry the traffic of those who can get fast connections
  • the privacy, security, response times and ease of use of the applications are fit for purpose 

are leading to rapidly mounting pressures to allow market forces to make up for regulatory failure.


Will the revolt of rural Britain mean that the Coalition Government has no option but to ignore the special pleading of all those lobbyists working to protect the business models of the past from facing up to the demands of the future.


P.S. I have just sat in a reasonably serious (i.e. the participants appeared to know what they talking about in terms of business models and technology opportunities) argument that the way out of recession is to enable savers to bypass the current regulated cartels (communications, energy, fianncial srvices etc.) and invest direct in rebuilding the creaking infra-structure of Britain

via Victoria style local utility companies, municipal enterprises, co-partnerships (c.f. the Metropolitan Gas Light and Coke)  etc. I thought it a great idea. I can think of hafl a dozen local boradband or electricity generation projects in which I would love to be able to invest, even though I’d probably wish to put a quarter of my currently available capital into a BT rights issue to fund its share of the future and a quarter into any Nuclear rights issue.   


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Hello Philip,

You raise some valid points here - we are aware that there may be issues in some areas about internet access. A lot of trusees are already using our online services - more than three quarters now send us their accounts and annual returns online, and 90% of all applications for charities now come in online, so online services are being well used.

re: publications,like many public bodies we are having to look at how we continue to provide resources to trustees within a more constrained financial situation. UK online centres also offer a good alternative for people who may not have internet access at home.

UKOM research in June also that showed that half of the nealry 2m people who came on line last year were over 50, so things are going in the right direction, but yes, it will take time.

Comment from Philip Virgo: Thank you for such a prompt response. The point about UK On-line Centres is also most apposite but nearly all are urban. There is a need to complement them with a programme for access via rural village halls, pubs, schools, post offices etc. Interestingly rural charities could/should have a major role to play in this area and need clear guidance on how to the thorny legal and fiscal issues in co-operation with parish councils, whose "official" support appears to enable them to bypass most of the "state aid" and "business rates" issues that are said to be show-stoppers.

Well said Philip!

WIth savings rates below inflation and buy-to-let looking decidedly sickly, now is surely the time for Fibre Building (Big) Societies to emerge.

FttH is a durable asset (twice the warranty as a new homw's decade guarantee) and of general public good, the 4th Utility destined for the same ubiquity as electricity today.

An ecosystem of differing sized fibre building societies then, able to enable local communities to choose their own Digital Destinies.

Digital Britain Building Society anyone, steady BoE plus 7% for 5-20 years?