The notoriously anti-trans pressure group LGB Alliance has been registered as a charity in England and Wales by the Charity Commission.
The Charity Commission is a non-ministerial government department that registers and regulates charities in England and Wales in accordance with the Charities Act 2011.
Confirming that it approved the LGB Alliance for entrance onto the register of public charities on 20 April, the Charity Commission acknowledged that there had been “a number of objections to the registration of LGBA as a charity”.
This includes more than 40,000 people who signed a petition urging the Charity Commission to reject the LGB Alliance’s application to be registered as a charity on the grounds that it is an anti-trans hate group.
“The commission looked at whether LGB Alliance’s purpose inevitably involves the denigration of the rights of transgender people and considered that it did not,” says the Charity Commission’s full decision on the LGB Alliance’s successful application.
But what does it mean for the LGB Alliance to be registered as a charity?
The register of charities in England and Wales
The register of charities is an up-to-date list of charities in England and Wales, maintained by the Charity Commission – which removes charities that no longer exist, do not operate, or are not considered to be charitable.
An organisation can be registered as a charity under the Charities Act if it’s established for charitable purposes only – not political purposes – and if it falls under the jurisdiction of the High Court.
This means that it is a legal requirement for the LGB Alliance to have charitable purposes only. It cannot now have political purposes – like it did when it took out full-page newspaper adverts in Scotland opposing reform of the Gender Recognition Act. The LGB Alliance must now have a governing document that sets out its charitable purposes in an “objects clause”, and in deciding to register it the Charity Commission concluded that the LGB Alliance’s purposes are “exclusively charitable”.
To be subject to the High Court, most of the LGB Alliance’s trustees must live in England or Wales, most of its property must be in England or Wales, and its centre of administration must be in England or Wales.
While the LGB Alliance has a Scottish branch, they have not applied to be registered as a charity in Scotland (yet).
What information does LGB Alliance have to make public now it’s an official charity?
It will have to publish accounts and an annual return, but does not have to provide this financial information until 10 months after its first financial period. Charities can determine their own financial periods, they don’t have to be by the calendar or tax year, so it remains to be determined when the LGB Alliance will file its first set of accounts.
The annual return the LGB Alliance will need to submit depends on its income. If this is less than £10,000, then it can simply report the amount of income and spending. If it’s between £10,000 and £25,000 then it could also be asked some of the following questions by the Charity Commission:
financial information, like income and spending
income or contracts from central government or local authorities
income from or work done outside the UK
staff salary bands and benefits
If the LGB Alliance’s income is more than £25,000, then it will need to do the above and also have its accounts checked and independently examined. If its income is over a million, then its accounts will be fully audited.
It’s worth noting that the LGB Alliance was already a registered company, so already had to file annual accounts with Companies House. Its first set of accounts are due on 28 August, 2021. It’s possible – depending on its income, and the questions the Charity Commission might ask as a result – that registering as a charity will force the LGB Alliance to disclose more detailed information about its income and spending, but not guaranteed.
It’s four trustees – Malcolm Clark, Bev Jackson, Kate Harris and Ann Sinnott – are now listed on the LGB Alliance’s entrance on the charities register. The trustees must produce a trustees’ annual report along with the accounts each year
The LGB Alliance’s address is a virtual office address provider in London.
How to complain to the Charity Commission and what happens next
The Charity Commission is responsible for ensuring charities are “accountable, well-run and meet their legal obligations”. It has a statutory function under the Charities Act to identify and investigate abuse and mismanagement in charities, including things the charity does that could weaken public trust in the institution of charities.
Before complaining to the Charity Commission about the LGB Alliance, first the LGB Alliance has to be complained to directly. Complaints about charities usually pertain to them not meeting their legal requirements under the Charities Act.
The Charity Commission says complaints should only be made if “there is a serious risk of harm to the charity or people it was set up to help”. Examples of serious issues include:
a charity not following the law, with damaging consequences to its reputation and public trust in charities generally
serious harm to the people the charity helps or other people who come into contact with the charity through its work
a person or organisation receiving significant financial benefit from a charity
criminal, illegal or terrorist activity
a charity set up for illegal or improper purposes
a charity losing significant amounts of money
a charity losing significant assets, for example land or buildings
The Charity Commission does not take action on every complaint. It says it takes action “where it is evidence based and proportionate to do so”. If the Charity Commission was to accept a complaint about the LGB Alliance, investigate, and uphold it, then the LGB Alliance would be removed from the register of charities – it would not stop existing, stop campaigning or stop being a registered company with Companies House.
In 2018, the Charity Commission opened 350 cases based on complaints – but this figure does not include the number of complaints made after which the Charity Commission decided not to open a case. It refused to disclose information asked via a Freedom of Information request on how many of those 350 cases were upheld, rejected, or still being followed up.
In 2018-19, 25 complaints were made about the Charity Commission itself. One of these was upheld, although details are not known.
The Charity Tribunal and the 42 day appeal window
Under Schedule 6 of the Charities Act 2011, the Charity Commission’s decisions can be challenged by appealing to the Charity Tribunal.
This can include the Charity Commission’s decision “to enter or not to enter an institution in the register of charities” and can be made by “any other person who is or may be affected by the decision”.
There is a 42-day window from the date when the decision was published to appeal to the Charity Tribunal. Weekends and bank holidays are included in the 42 days, which means the deadline to appeal to the Charity Tribunal about the Charity Commission’s decision to enter the LGB Alliance on to the register of charities is 1 June.