PCCs are charities established by the Parochial Church Councils (Powers) Measure 1956, which sets out the purpose of the PCC as "promoting in the parish the whole mission of the Church".
The rest of the PCC’s ‘constitution’ is the Church Representation Rules (set out in Schedule 3 to the Synodical Government Measure 1969).
If the annual income of PCC is over £100,000, they should be registered on the Charity Commission website.
The Charity Commission’s six core principles for charity trustees are as follows:
This is following the objects ie Mission, and it is essential to ensure that money is still being spent for public benefit – church is not a private club
2. Comply with your charity’s governing document ie PCC Measure and Church Rep Rules – and the wider law
ie Church law, charity law and the range of other laws eg health and safety, safeguarding, employment (if applicable), planning etc
ie making sure that you act for the church and not any conflicting interest, eg a related school; ensure the decisions are yours not those influenced by others
For the charity’s purposes, following proper procedures to ensure affordability, proper investment, proper value and security against theft/fraud.
Church law requires an inventory and quinquennial inspection as part of this duty.
According to your ability and experience eg a lawyer or accountant would be expected to have more knowledge and skill than someone without a professional background.
So far as possible seek to have people with relevant skills – and to train up those who do not have such skills or background.
Accountability is to the law, the parish and the wider purposes and public benefit of the charity.
Decision making is collective (The vicar does not always know best!)
Whilst the PCC Measure requires ‘co-operation’ with the vicar all votes carry the same weight.
If you do not feel that you have sufficient information on which to base a decision or assess whether action has been taken properly, then you are entitled to ask for more information. That includes information about finances.
Decisions should be made by majority, collectively and in accordance with governance documents, for example with respect to the quorum required.
When you and your co-trustees make decisions about your charity, you must:
- act within your powers
- act in good faith, and only in the interests of your charity
- make sure you are sufficiently informed, taking any advice you need
- take account of all relevant factors you are aware of
- ignore any irrelevant factors
- deal with conflicts of interest and loyalty
- make decisions that are within the range of decisions that a reasonable trustee body could make in the circumstances
- RECORD decisions
It’s extremely rare, but not impossible, for charity trustees to be held personally liable:
- to their charity, if they cause a financial loss by acting improperly
- to a third party that has a legal claim against the charity which the charity can’t meet
NB. PCCs do not have limited liability because they are not companies. You can take out insurance to indemnify trustees against any allegation of breach of duties.
To help to assess and demonstrate whether you are fulfilling your duties adopting policies about the following areas of work can help:
- Public benefit – how do you help the public and how are you open to the public? The statement should be included in the PCC’s annual return to the Charity Commission.
- Conflicts policies and managing those with influence
- Reserves policy – Balance of using funds prudently so that can meet costs for 6-12 months if something goes wrong BUT also show that you are spending your money for the purposes of the charity
- Ensure you have adequate insurance as well
- Recruitment policies for volunteers, staff, trustees – ensure adequate skills
- Are your banking mandates and financial controls in order
- Complaints and grievance policies
- Data Protection policies
- Expenses, gifts and hospitality
- Risk assessment and safeguarding