Controversial commission board member steps down early

The academic Gwythian Prins, who said the public expected charities to 'stick to their knitting' and authored an essay calling for the UK to leave the EU, had been reappointed until at least June 2017

Gwythian Prins
Gwythian Prins

The academic Gwythian Prins has stepped down early from the Charity Commission board, Third Sector has learned.

In May, Prins was reappointed to the board until at least June 2017, but a commission spokesman confirmed that he had stepped down at the most recent board meeting on 25 January. No reason was given for his early departure.

Prins, an emeritus research professor at the London School of Economics, joined the commission’s board in 2013, but his time on the commission’s board has been marred by controversy.

In an interview with Third Sector in 2013 he said the public expected that charities should "stick to their knitting" and stay out of politics. Brooks Newmark, then charities minister, was heavily criticised by the charity sector a year later after he repeated Prins’ remark at a conference.

In the lead-up to the EU referendum last year, Prins authored the essay, Beyond the Ghosts – Does EU Membership Erode Britain’s Global Influence?, which called for the UK to leave the EU and compared the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership to Greece’s radical left-wing Syriza party.   

Andrew Purkis, a former commission board member, complained to the commission that the essay was a "multiple breach" of the Code of Conduct for Board Members of Public Bodies. An investigation by the commission concluded that Prins should have consulted the board before publishing the essay, but that it was an "inadvertent error". 

Prins’ departure reduces the number of commission board members to eight after the appointment of three new members last November. These were Laurie Benson, chief executive of the media consultancy firm Upnexxt, Paul Martin, a security adviser, and Catherine Quinn, chief operating officer and associate dean at Oxford University’s Saïd Business School.

However, Orlando Fraser, a barrister, is due to step down in December, and William Shawcross's second term as chair of the board is due to end on 31 January 2018.

Third Sector asked the Department for Culture, Media & Sport, which is responsible for the appointment of commission board members, if Prins would be replaced and the reason for his departure, but it was not able to provide a response before the publication of this story.

Prins could not be reached for comment.

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