Bill Causes Concern for Private Schools; LEGAL & FINANCE

Article excerpt

The return of the Charities Bill to the House of Commons is sparking concern for independent schools and private hospitals in particular.

And, according to Stephen Claus, a charity expert at Birmingham and London law firm Martineau Johnson, it could threaten the existence of some.

Mr Claus said: "The reappearance of the Charities Bill obviously brings with it a number of benefits, including the overall modernisation and improvement of charity law.

"However, the proposed changes could see some charities being denied their charitable status as a result of new complex obligations for organisations to prove that they are established for the public benefit."

The Charities Bill has been on the shelf for seven months but has now reappeared and reached the scrutiny stage, having received its second reading debate at the Commons on June 26.

There is currently a legal presumption that a charity which either relieves poverty or advances religion or education is benefiting the public unless there is any evidence to the contrary.

However, under the Bill, this presumption would be removed, a factor that Mr Claus believes is rightly raising concern, particularly amongst those charities that charge some kind of fee for their service.

He said: "There are strong feelings that the Government's reintroduction of the Charities Bill will be accompanied by a controversial change to the 'public benefit' issue and I believe that this will impact negatively on the likes of private or independent schools and private hospitals. …