Thursday 20 March 2014

More Red Tape,Just what we need!

I noticed a little exchange in the Commons, which betokens a major potential headache for service delivery charities and social enterprises.

I have written to Justice Minister Simon Hughes MP, urging Ministers not to place undue and unfair burdens on charities with reforms to Freedom of Information (FOI).

A little unnoticed (apart from sharp eyed me!) statement made by the Justice Minister in the House on Tuesday,  said that the FOI code of practice would be changed to bring contractors with the public sector under freedom of information regulations.

While welcoming greater transparency in public service contracting, charities operating in the public interest are already subjected to greater public scrutiny than private firms through the Charity Commission.

I want assurances from the Minister that this must not be the start of a slippery slope towards piling another layer of bureaucracy on charities and social enterprises. We need to be fully consulted in the event of any changes to the FOI code of practice.

Charities and social enterprises are already regulated by the Charity Commission to ensure openness and transparency.  Subjecting them to Freedom of Information red tape on top of everything else would raise prohibitive costs and shut out many important community organisations from delivering public services.

Following the Lobbying Act, charities already have an additional layer of regulation through the electoral commission.  Now, in the course of regulating private firms, the Government must not add a triple-lock on the missions of charities and social enterprises.

What we need is more support in delivering community focused public services, not another obstacle in our way. This is ill thought through and wrong. We must oppose it. Frankly, it's a disgrace that no one bothered to mention this to anyone in our sector. You can imagine my tart remarks to our civil society Minister!

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