Charity Commission chair to step down in February

Baroness Stowell has announced she will not chair the regulator for a second term

Baroness Stowell
Baroness Stowell

Baroness Stowell has revealed she will not stand for a second term as chair of the Charity Commission.

Stowell, who took up the role in February 2018, announced in an interview with The Telegraph’s Chopper’s Politics podcast, released on Friday,  that she would be stepping down when her three-year term comes to an end next year. 

She said it had been “a privilege” to serve in the role, and did not give a reason for her decision. 

Stowell’s appointment to the role was unusual in that the Digital, Media, Culture and Sport select committee at the time voted unanimously that she should not be appointed, citing concerns about her lack of charity sector experience and her political neutrality, and because she failed to stand up to scrutiny when questioned by the committee. It was the first time a DCMS committee had not approved a government-backed candidate.  

But Matt Hancock, the then-secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, decided to press ahead with the appointment

When asked about her time as chair of the commission on the podcast, Stowell said: “I’ve been quite challenging of the charity sector, and I make no apology for that, because I care very much about all that it achieves.”

She said that one of her aims at the commission had been to move away from being “a technocratic function of the state” and to make it “much more democratic and for us as an organisation to be more understanding and respectful of all the people we serve, and whose interests we seek to represent”. 

Stowell did not elaborate on whether she felt she had achieved her aims, but said it was an approach that she knew “has now taken root in the organisation”, adding: “Whoever follows me is going to need to continue and that’s an important part of getting our job right.”

She said: “We have driven a lot of changes and improvements in the sector itself so that we are much better equipped to hold charities to account; we have held inquiries into some of the biggest charities, and not been in any way shy in doing so. 

“That has led to real change and improvement amongst those charities themselves. 

“I think we see now some evidence of public trust and confidence starting to increase again as a result of that. This is a job that will never be done – this is something which will continue and must continue.”

Neither the Charity Commission nor the DCMS responded to requests for further comment on Stowell’s announcement in time for Third Sector’s deadline. 

The fact that Stowell made the announcement on the podcast, and her remarks about the National Trust, which were the basis for a subsequent news story that appeared on the front page of the Telegraph’s Saturday edition, drew criticism on Twitter.

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