Three years ago, the Commission was set a challenge to become a more efficient, effective, risk based regulator. I’m pleased to say that our annual report, published today, shows we continue to make strong progress against that stated aim and our strategic plan.
What’s new in our report this year?
New in our report this year is a performance section that looks at how we have achieved against the four strands of our strategic plan to provide clear accountability to Parliament and the public as to how we are meeting those objectives. Also, back by popular demand from charity lawyers, is a legal annex that details some of the key cases this year and the implications of various decisions and outcomes. And as you may have read yesterday, the Annual report is our first document to reflect our new brand and logo.
Achievements in 2015-16 – new powers, digital efficiency, tackling abuse, strengthening trusteeship
Among our key achievements this year was securing new powers in the Charities (Protection and Social Investment) Act 2016. These new powers will help the Commission tackle abuse more effectively but filling loopholes and strengthening gaps in our current powers.
We have also continued to transform ourselves as an organisation and move towards a more digital, customer-focussed approach. We launched our new online registration service, with positive reviews, and we are continuing to further digitise our processes and services and automate low-risk services. This is helping us achieve more with the same budget but also gives our users a better experience, more accurate data for the public on charities, and more staff time and resources to focus on strategic and high risk casework.
This strategy is already showing results: this year the number of charities looking to register with us went up significantly, but using new ways of working we managed to reduce the average time it takes to register with us. Customer service times have also improved, with 90% of enquiries replied to within 15 days, up from 72% in 2014-15.
Our compliance work continues to be effective. This report shows we are using our current powers more quickly and more often than before to secure positive regulatory outcomes. Our proactive monitoring work also continues to improve and deliver better results.
Promoting good governance
We are also pleased to report on some of the work that doesn’t grab the headlines, but is a fundamental part of our role and is vital in ensuring the future health of the charity sector, strengthening charity governance and promoting trustee oversight continues to be at the heart of what we do. This year we published the new version of our core guide for trustees: The essential trustee (CC3) in July and following widespread criticism of charities' fundraising activities we also consulted on and developed our new fundraising guidance. This was subsequently published last month. We also revised three key pieces of financial guidance, to help trustees manage their finances effectively.
As well as updating and improving our guidance, which charities tell us they value, we have also taken steps to ensure we communicate it as widely as possible, to ensure maximum reach.
And finally, on top of all this, the report shows that the volumes we deal with continue to remain high. Our 300 dedicated staff dealt with 8000+ registration applications, opened 1300+ compliance cases and 1500+ permissions cases, 53 statutory inquiries, used our powers 1073 times and dealt with over 100,000 calls, letters and emails. By anyone’s standards that is a lot and I thank our hard-working staff for their efforts.
We’ll be blogging more in the coming weeks about our plans for the year but I’d be interested to hear what you think about our approach this year and what we’ve done. Our annual public meeting will be in September and we will invite questions there, here on the blog, or on twitter #ccannualreport.