Charity blogger queries sector experience of Baroness Stowell

Stowell has been named the government's preferred candidate for the chair of the Charity Commission, but blogger Miles King says she has little sector experience and is closely tied to a major Conservative Party donor

The blog
The blog

A charity sector blogger has questioned the charity sector experience of Baroness Tina Stowell, the government’s preferred candidate to be the next chair of the Charity Commission, and her close business ties with the Conservative donor Lord Ashcroft.

In a blog called The Rise of ChariTina – and why she will be the perfect Charity Commission chair, Miles King, who has worked in UK nature conservation for 31 years, says that records indicate Stowell has very little charity sector experience and holds a directorship in an outsourcing business owned by Ashcroft.

On Friday, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport announced that Stowell, a Conservative peer since 2011, was its preferred candidate to be chair of the regulator. It said that she would resign her party membership and the party whip if she were to be chosen after a DCMS select committee pre-appointment hearing on 20 February.

But her political impartiality was questioned by some sector organisations and by Steve Reed, the shadow minister for charities.

A DCMS press release said that Stowell had charity sector experience as a trustee of Crimestoppers and the education charity the Transformation Trust.

But King says in his blog that Companies House records indicate that Stowell has been a trustee of Crimestoppers only since July 2017 and joined the board of the Transformation Trust on 1 January 2018. The Charity Commission’s register is yet to be updated to show her appointments.

King says that both charities have close ties to leading members of the Conservative Party: "You may not be surprised to discover that the chair of the Crimestoppers Trust is that collector of other people’s Victoria Crosses and massive Tory Party donor – yes, it’s Lord Ashcroft of Belize. Just a coincidence, I’m sure."

He says that the Transformation Trust board "is filled with the Great and the Good, although I did also notice Rachel Wolf is a trustee. Wolf was funded by Cameron to set up the New Schools Network, of which the unsavoury eugenics enthusiast and social media misogynist Toby Young is still chief exec (at the time of writing). Wolf was a former advisor to Cameron and Gove, and more recently helped set up a new member of the right-wing thinktank-ocracy – Parents and Teachers for Excellence."

King adds that "ChariTina’s charitable credentials seem even thinner" than those of William Shawcross, the current chair of the commission.

King says Companies House records show that Stowell holds two directorships of companies: ABTA, the organisation that represents travel agents; and Impellam, a company that provides casual staff to public sector organisations, owned by Ashcroft. "Who could possibly be behind this very successful business that seems to be so closely aligned to the government?" he asks.

"YES! It’s our old friend, Lord Ashcroft of Belize. He owns Impellam. I expect ChariTina’s experience of the charity sector will be helpful in increasing Impellam’s profits.

"Baroness Stowell’s position as preferred candidate for Charity Commission chair is obviously down to her having been a charity trustee of two charities for a combined total of six whole months.

"It can have absolutely nothing to do with the fact that she’s a Tory peer or has close links with Tory party funder and eminence grise Lord Ashcroft."

A DCMS spokeswoman said in response to the blog: "Following a fair and open competition, Baroness Stowell has been chosen as the preferred candidate for the role. She will now attend a hearing with the select committee before an appointment is made."

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