Reappointment of William Shawcross as regulator chair was 'done on the quiet', Acevo says

After last week's announcement, Sir Stephen Bubb has written to the Cabinet Secretary asking for assurance that due process was followed

William Shawcross
William Shawcross

The charity chief executives body Acevo has accused the Cabinet Office  of reappointing William Shawcross as chair of the Charity Commission "on the quiet" and has asked for confirmation that the correct procedures were followed.

Shawcross’s reappointment for a second three-year term as chair of the commission was confirmed on Thursday last week. The announcement was made without warning, eight months before Shawcross’s first three-year term as chair would have ended in October.

Sir Stephen Bubb, chief executive of Acevo, sent a letter to Sir Jeremy Heywood, the Cabinet Secretary and head of the civil service, also on Thursday.

The letter, which was published on the Acevo website over the weekend, begins: "I am writing to you to express my concern at the process behind today’s appointment of William Shawcross as chair of the Charity Commission. I would like to seek your assurance that due process has been followed."

In the letter, Bubb asks Heywood five questions about the reappointment process. They are: whether it was conducted in accordance with the Code of Practice for Ministerial Appointments to Public Bodies; who was on the committee that made the appointment; whether any other candidates were considered; what consultation there was with the Cabinet Office’s propriety and ethics team over the process; and how information about the process would be made publicly available.

Asked by Third Sector for answers to the questions raised by the letter, a spokeswoman for the Cabinet Office said in an email: "Sir Jeremy Heywood is reviewing the letter and will respond in due course."

The email included a statement praising Shawcross’s "impressive leadership" and saying that his reappointment would ensure the ongoing success of the commission’s transformation programme. This statement did not address any of the issues raised in Bubb's letter.

A story in The Times quoted the Cabinet Office as saying "no rules had been broken". The Cabinet Office spokeswoman was unable to provide an on-the-record statement to that effect.

Commenting on his letter, Bubb said: "The public will have grave concerns that, six months before the appointment was due and three months before a general election, the government has sought to make this appointment on the quiet.

"The Charity Commission is an important public body. It is not the Cabinet Office’s personal fiefdom."

He said the appointment would only "add fuel to the fire of those who accuse the Charity Commission of being a plaything of government patronage, rather than a forceful, independent regulator".

Bubb said the regulator did not need such questions at a time when it was trying to get its act together after a period of sustained and severe criticism.

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