Specialist charity lawyer urges local organisations to get their house in order

13th May 2013

A Midlands-based lawyer who specialises in advising charities is inviting local charitable organisations to a legal 'health check' following several high-profile cases where the Charity Commission has appointed interim managers to take control of the administration and management of charities that have got into difficulties.

Kirsty McEwen, a lawyer at Higgs & Sons, heads the firm's Charity, Community and Social Enterprise team. She has spent many years advising charities and not for profit organisations.

"In the most recent case, the independent regulator of charities in England and Wales, the Charity Commission, has opened a statutory inquiry into The Cup Trust," explains Kirsty.

"The inquiry was opened following the receipt of new information from HMRC on 10 April about significant recent events, and followed on from the Commission's growing concerns about the administration and management of the charity. In particular, these concerns centered on the charity's involvement in the Gift Aid scheme and the potential for damage to public trust and confidence."

The Cup Trust, which was at one point the 77th largest charity registered with the Commission, received £176.5m in private donations over two years, but spent just £55,000 on good causes. Almost all its funds were spent on buying bonds that were subsequently sold at a fraction of their normal value.

Kirsty's experience includes working on numerous such appointments where an interim manager has been appointed by the Charity Commission and so she has a unique insight into the regulatory world of the sector.

"Trustees of charities, regardless of how small the organisations are, need to understand their responsibilities and duties," says Kirsty.

"This recent investigation by the Charity Commission yet again demonstrates how seriously the regulator takes its role, and I would urge local groups to take advantage of the legal 'health check' to ensure they are operating within the law."

Higgs & Sons works from two offices in the Black Country - Waterfront Business Park in Brierley Hill and Kingswinford. The firm employs more than 200 people, which includes over 100 specialist lawyers.

To find out more about the legal 'health check' or for specialist advice for your charity or not for profit organisation, contact Kirsty on 0845 111 5050 or email kirsty.mcewen@higgsandsons.co.uk.


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