Britain's largest charities urged to reveal who funds them

By Kieran Guilbert LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Many of Britain's largest charities, which receive billions of pounds of taxpayers' money in funding, refuse to disclose fully who funds them, a think tank said on Wednesday, as new regulations were issued demanding greater transparency. A Centre for Policy Studies (CPS) report said that large charities were choosing not to disclose where some 3.4 billion pounds, a quarter of their collective funding, comes from. It said the charities' accounts showed that 24 percent of their funds, 3.1 billion pounds, was public money from government bodies, and that the lack of transparency meant the overall amount of public money they received could be as high as 6.5 billion pounds. The Charity Commission, which regulates registered charities in England, said its updated annual return for 2015 will require charities to say how much income they received from contracts and grants from central or local government to deliver services. The CPS report's author, William Norton, said the information given by charities about the sources of their funds should be transparent and in the public domain for "the sake of democratic accountability". "If charities are being supported to a considerable extent by public money, then taxpayers have a right to know that and to know it directly from the charities," Norton said in a statement as the report was released. The report found that 32 of the 50 regulated charities with the largest incomes in Britain indicated in their annual reports and accounts that they received public money, but did not always specify the amount received or the source of funding. The proportion of unspecified funding ranged widely from 0.1 percent to 99.9 percent of a charity's total income. The CPS said that in certain cases, it was quite clear that a charity was not trying to provide open disclosure of the amount of public money it receives. The most remarkable reticence involved charities receiving money from the National Health Service (NHS), it said. Nuffield Health, St. Andrews Healthcare and The London Clinic, private bodies which have contracts with the NHS, were unable to clarify how much their services cost the health service, while Marie Stopes International openly refused to do so, the report said. St. Andrews Healthcare said it was committed to transparency and met all Charity Commission requirements, and The London Clinic said its occasional work for the NHS had never accounted for more than one percent of its total revenue. Nuffield Health said it was "wrong to suggest that it costs the NHS money", and that its sources of funding were stated in its annual submission to the Charity Commission. Marie Stopes International was not immediately available for comment. In a separate report published by charity think tank New Philanthropy Capital in October, more than a third of people surveyed in Britain said they had little or no trust in charities, particularly those they saw as international, political and run by professionals. ($1 = 0.6588 pounds) (Reporting By Kieran Guilbert; Editing by Tim Pearce)