Government has chosen new Charity Commission chair

The DCMS was unable to confirm the date of the pre-appointment hearing

Charity Commission offices
Charity Commission offices

A preferred candidate for the role of permanent chair of the Charity Commission has been chosen, the government has revealed.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has confirmed that interviews for the role, which had been delayed, have now taken place and said it will announce the identity of the person it wants to take up the position soon.

More than a week ago, Rachael Maskell MP, the shadow charities minister, asked the Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries why there had been a delay in the government appointing a new chair of the commission.

The DCMS was supposed to provide a response to Maskell's question by 19 October, according to the parliamentary website, but she finally received a response yesterday.

Nigel Huddleston, the sport and tourism minister, who had the charities brief added to his responsibilities earlier this month, said: “Interviews for this role were rescheduled but have now taken place, and the preferred candidate will be announced in due course.

“They will be expected to attend a pre-appointment hearing in front of the DCMS Select Committee.

“Further updates on the progress of the campaign will be made public in due course.”

The DCMS has not responded to a request to confirm the date of the pre-appointment hearing.

The National Council for Voluntary Organisations, alongside other infrastructure bodies, today shared a checklist of attributes they feel the new chair should be judged against, including demonstrable party-political independence, and a vision for how they can uphold this independence in the role.

Maskell followed up her earlier inquiry with two additional written questions to the DCMS last week about the timescale for appointing a chair and what steps the department was taking to ensure the chair’s independence.

Huddleston said: “The process of appointing a new chair is being run in line with the Governance Code on Public Appointments. One of the essential criteria in the person specification for the role, which will be tested in interviews, is a commitment to the charity sector’s effective, independent, proportionate and impartial regulation.”

Baroness Stowell, the previous chair of the Charity Commission, said in October last year that she would not seek a second three-year term. She left the role in February.

Ian Karet was named interim chair until the end of August, but that arrangement was extended until the end of the year. 

Stowell, the government’s preferred candidate, was unanimously rejected by MPs on the DCMS Committee in 2018 because of concerns including a perceived lack of charity sector experience and fears about her political neutrality.

But Matt Hancock, the culture secretary at the time, appointed her anyway, saying she was "not only the best candidate for the job, but also the right candidate”.

In September, the commissioner for public appointments complained to the government about the length of time it was taking to fill top roles, including the chair of the Charity Commission.

Earlier this month, a group of charity leaders and a former chief executive of the commission urged the government not to politicise the appointment of the regulator’s next chair.

The Good Law Project, a not-for-profit organisation that uses the law to protect the interests of the public, wrote to Dorries in September, calling for her to “take appropriate steps to ensure that the selection and appointment is conducted on the basis of merit… and without the attempt to exert illegitimate control on the exercise of the new chair’s functions”. 

The organisation said it would sue if Dorries did not comply.

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