Delays to Charity Commission chair appointment criticised after government extends interim's term

The commissioner for public appointments has complained to the government about the length of time it is taking to fill top roles, including the chair of the Charity Commission.

In a letter to the Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove, Peter Riddell express his concern at the “lack of progress in a number of high-profile competitions” and said only “vague explanations” had been provided as to why the Charity Commission role, which has been occupied on an interim basis since February, had not been filled.

Ian Karet was appointed interim chair of the regulator until 26 August, but it has emerged that this has been extended until 26 December.

In a letter in February to Oliver Dowden, the secretary of state at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, which is responsible for the Charity Commission appointment, Riddell said he was happy that Karet should be given the role for no more than six months.

“I understand this should give you time to complete a competition to find a substantive chair,” said Riddell at the time.

Riddell’s letter to Gove, which was sent in July but has just been published, said: “I have recently been consulted about the intentions of ministers to extend the appointment of the interim chair of the Charity Commission, who was scheduled to finish his service in August 2021, while a competition for a substantive chair is completed.

“Vague explanations have been given, when pressed, about why this competition has not completed as planned.”

Riddell said this left him in the “difficult position of being asked to agree appointments” where exceptional circumstances required to extend the appointment had not been made clear but the body must remain operational.

Julian Knight, chair of the House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media & Sport Committee, said in July that hold-ups “at the top of government” had been causing the delays in appointments being made.

Gove's reply to Riddell said: "I strongly agree however that across government, we must do all we can to ensure that appointment processes are run efficiently and good candidates are not deterred from applying for appointments, or remaining engaged in processes, by avoidable delays."

He said interviews for the Charity Commission position were expected to take place this month.

A spokesperson for the Charity Commission confirmed that Karet’s appointment as interim chair had been extended until 26 December.

Karet said: “I’m pleased to continue in this role, providing continuity while a new chair is appointed.”

The DCMS did not respond to a request for comment.

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