Charitable status intervention

27th July 2007 at 01:00
the lecturers' union has criticised the charities regulator for performing a U-turn over the charitable status of FE colleges.

The Educational Institute of Scotland claims the ruling last week by the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator that John Wheatley College in Glasgow does not meet the charity test contradicts an assurance previously given to the unions by Jane Ryder, chief executive of the OSCR.

The union is calling on parliament to intervene to resolve the problem and prevent colleges from losing their charitable status, which is worth up to pound;25 million a year in tax and rates reliefs.

The issue has arisen because charities are supposed to be independent of government, but colleges are still subject to some forms of ministerial intervention. The decision by OSCR on the college was one of a pilot series on a range of charities, which the regulator insists will not be the same for all organisations in similar positions.

Ronnie Smith, general secretary of the EIS, says the judgment flies in the face of an assurance from Ms Ryder in June 2006. In the light of Ministers powers to direct college boards being removed, she said: "There is no question of further education colleges failing to meet the constitutional requirements of a charity... Happily, colleges can therefore retain their charitable status".

An OSCR spokesman said there had been an early indication from ministers that they would remove all their powers of intervention in the operation of colleges, which appeared to have resolved the issue, but it has emerged that some powers remain hence the ruling.

Fiona Hyslop, the Cabinet Sec-retary for Education and Lifelong Learning, is looking at the legislation "to see if what was set out in 1992 is still relevant in 2007".

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