20th February 2016

Charities & Public Benefit

This note is important for all charity trustees and so relevant to trustees of Bell Restoration Funds, those ringing societies that are registered as charities and all other charitable organisations.

The current position

All charities must prepare accounts and a Trustees Annual Report. The accounts must be available on request. The basic contents of the Annual Report are mandatory, though smaller charities which are not subject to statutory audit are not required to provide as much information as larger charities which are legally required to have an audit. The duty to file accounts and the Trustees Annual Report with the Charity Commission applies to all registered charities whose gross income exceeds £10,000. These larger charities must also send a completed Annual Return to the Commission.

Charity trustees currently have a legal duty to report the following in their trustees’ annual report:

  • a summary of the objects of the charity; and
  • a summary of the main activities and achievements of the charity in relation to its objects.

To this must now be added a requirement to report on their charity’s public benefit.

Public Benefit

All charities must have charitable purposes or ‘aims’ that are for the public benefit. This is known as the ‘public benefit requirement’. Although all charities have always had to meet this requirement, the Charities Act 2006 highlights it by explicitly including public benefit in the definition of a charitable purpose. These changes took effect from 1 April 2008. From that point, all organisations wishing to be recognised as charities must demonstrate, explicitly, that their aims are for the public benefit.

The Charity Commission’s website has extensive guidance on public benefit rules and how to make the relevant report. For general guidance please see: Charities and Public Benefit.

Reporting on your charity’s public benefit – the new duty

The Charity Commission has to ensure all charities meet the public benefit requirement and they provide guidance on what the requirement means. Charity trustees will be required to have regard to the Commission’s public benefit guidance and to report on their charity’s public benefit. This report must also confirm that the trustees have paid due regard to the Commission’s guidance on public benefit in deciding what activities the charity should undertake.

For smaller charities, below the audit threshold, trustees are required to include a brief summary in their Trustees’ Annual Report of the main activities undertaken in order to carry out the charity’s aims for the public benefit. Trustees can, of course, provide fuller public benefit statements if they wish.

Most ringing-related charities are likely to fall within the smaller charities definition.

So what should you say? Some charities have included a Public Benefit Statement in their reports for 2008 as a trial run for the new requirements. So you have the opportunity to look at what other relevant charities have done. Remember to compare your charity with another of similar size and with the same audit requirements i.e. a smaller charity, if that is what yours is.

It is worth remembering that this is a new requirement and reports and accounts for the year 2008 or 2009 will often be the first time charities have included a public benefit statement of this sort. These statements will therefore probably be refined and improved over the years and the Charity Commission may well refine its guidance in the light of experience. Indeed supplementary guidance, some of which may be relevant to ringing-related charities, is currently out for consultation

For more information, and useful examples of public benefit reports, go to


Note prepared by the Bell Restoration Committee of the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers
May 2009

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