CSE Sector Update – January 2023
In this article we have set out some brief updates of interest to the charity and social economy sector.
Students’ unions – freedom of speech
As a firm, we act for a large number of students' unions, so have been watching the progress of the Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill through the parliamentary approval process with interest. In a significant development the House of Lords have voted in favour of an amendment which bans universities from using non-disclosure agreements to settle complaints on campus which relate to sexual abuse, sexual harassment or sexual misconduct and other forms of bullying and harassment. The government had previously encouraged universities to make a voluntary pledge not to use NDAs in such circumstance, but this new amendment will prohibit them by law, in what many will see as a positive step towards transparency and accountability on campus and which others may view as unfairly singling out universities where the abuse of such NDAs remains prevalent in other sectors.
The Lords also voted to remove a clause in the Bill which would entitle those who felt their freedom of speech had been restricted to bring a civil action. Lord Willetts, who tabled the amendment, had expressed concern that the new right would stifle freedom of speech, because it would deter students' unions and universities from inviting controversial speakers to campus for fear of facing legal action. By removing the threat of legal action, the hope is that students' unions and others will have more freedom to organise debates on campus. You can follow the progress of the Bill here.
VAT on community buildings
HMRC has updated the guidance on the VAT treatment of the construction of community buildings. To qualify for VAT zero rating as being for a relevant charitable purpose, the community building must: 1) be constructed and managed by a charity, 2) be operated on a non-commercial basis for the benefit of a local community and 3) be used solely to provide social or recreational facilities for a local community.
Charity Commission: Post-Butler-Sloss guidance
Investment guidance following the Butler-Sloss case. The Charity Commission has confirmed that the Butler-Sloss case has not altered trustees' legal duties and charities can continue to rely on the CC14 guidance, 'Charities And investment matters: a guide for trustees', when making investment decisions. An updated version of CC14 is due to be published by the Charity Commission in summer 2023.
Online Sales Tax dropped (Autumn Statement 2022)
The proposed online sales tax ("OST"), which may have impacted on online fundraising by charities, is no longer moving forward following the recent government consultation. The government's decision reflects concerns raised about OST's complexity and the risk of creating unintended distortion or unfair outcomes between different business models.
Potential revocation of EU laws (EU Revocation Bill)
The Bill proposes to all retained EU law will automatically cease to apply at the end of 2023 unless it has been specifically preserved by new legislation. A particular concern is the uncertainty for employment law which is largely derived from EU law. We will be keeping an eye on any developments and provide updates via our regular Employment Bulletins, available from our website and by subscription.
How Wrigleys can help
The CSE team at Wrigleys are experts in helping charities and clients in the social enterprise sector navigate the myriad regulatory, governance and best practice requirements relevant to their work, including to anticipate and keep up to date with developments.
If you would like to discuss any aspect of this article further, please contact Mike Ford or any member of our Charities and Social Economy team on 0113 244 6100.
You can also keep up to date by following Wrigleys CSE team on Twitter.
The information in this article is necessarily of a general nature. The law stated is correct at the date (stated above) this article was first posted to our website. Specific advice should be sought for specific situations. If you have any queries or need any legal advice please feel free to contact Wrigleys Solicitors.