Background of charity

Birmingham Talking Newspaper for the Blind and Visually Impaired (formerly known as Birmingham Talking Newspaper Association) are a Charitable Incorporated Organisation providing a free service of local news, entertainment and information for blind and partially sighted people living in and around Birmingham. 

The Issue

Birmingham Talking Newspaper for the Blind and Visually Impaired (BTNBVI) became a CIO on 22 Oct 19 and had to file its first annual accounts by 31 Jan 22. BTNBVI continued the role of its unincorporated predecessor (registered in 1996 and removed on 20 Feb 20).

The charity asked for On Call support and advice on their first independent examination (IE) for accounts to 31Mar 2021, bank account transfer, appropriate financial governance and book-keeping software.

The Solution

The Cranfield Trust matched the charity with volunteer Frank Learner, a chartered accountant.

This was a very involved On Call support due to initial unfamiliarity with charity governance and a change in Chair during the process.  Our volunteer updated the replacement Chair in the closing stages of the task.

David Gowdy, Interim Chair for BTNBVI said:

"We received exceptional advice and support from the volunteer Frank Learner and Cranfield Trust Project Manager Marie Langan. They were amazing thank you! 

The support offered by our volunteer included:

Independent Examination 

 • Considerable time was spent emphasising that conversion to a CIO transfer required closure accounts for the unincorporated charity, and that the funds transfer of c£40k to the new CIO charity counted as first day income. 

 • Given that the CIO’s book-keeper is a former chair and a retired accountant, the volunteer advised that the charity could minimise the IE cost by self-preparation of the simpler receipts and payments-format accounts.  

• Advice was given to the CIO to counter the suggestion that the predecessor should be ‘unremoved’ as its bank account had been used to ensure continuity; the suggestion would not be materially different to the CIO’s accounts and would be disruptive. 

• A mutually-preferred examiner was appointed who took a constructive, pragmatic approach. The IE should be concluded in Jan 22 and the CIO has taken the steps that should avoid qualification of the accounts  

• Our volunteer also commented on the Time at Risk (TAR) which caused the first Chair’s resignation. The disagreement was on the timetable for addressing the strategic challenge of the charity’s ageing beneficiaries – or, in other words, the evolution of the talking newspaper concept (and delivery) in an increasingly digital world. Bank Account Transfer Achieved on 11 Oct 21; I said that the CIO just needed to jump, patiently and determinedly, through the bank’s application hoops. 

Book-keeping Software 

The replacement Chair seems in tune with the volunteers view that Excel-based book-keeping, due to its familiarity, would be suitable for a ‘simple’ small charity such as BTNBVI. This would require regular application of financial controls as risk mitigation. 

Appropriate Financial Governance

The volunteer introduced the charity to a model financial policy and the major financial controls for a small charity. 


 The Independent Examination and bank account transfer aspects were achieved satisfactorily.   The replacement Chair will take forward governance implementation; the charity now has a capable examiner (with whom the volunteer made contact) available for further advice.

David Gowdy, continued:

"The impact has been amazing and has saved a small charity paying hundreds of pounds for alternative services. It has also helped us to avoid costly mistakes and to rectify a fundamental error in relation to financial accounting and strengthening our financial governance arrangements. 
We secured the right IE on time and at reasonable cost and we are on course to meeting our first R&P Accounts and TAR submission to the Charity Commission in time. The Trustees are clearer about financial governance and their duties severally and collectively. The Charity has been sign posted to accessing a number of really helpful resources."
Registered Charity No: 800072 | Scottish Charity No: SCO40299 | Company No: 2290789 | Telephone No: 01794 830338
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