Large number of applicants for regulator's board from the sector, says Paula Sussex

The chief executive of the Charity Commission tells the Lords Select Commitee on Charities the regulator is looking specifically for candidates with charitable expertise

Paula Sussex
Paula Sussex

Paula Sussex, chief executive of the Charity Commission, has indicated that there have been a high number of applicants from within the charity sector for the three vacant seats on the regulator’s board.

Speaking in front of the House of Lords Select Committee on Charities during its first evidence session yesterday, Sussex defended the level of charity expertise among the board’s current members.

Board member Claire Dove, whose role as chief executive of the educational charity Blackburne House made her the board member with the most experience of paid work in the charity sector, stepped down when her term came to an end last week.

The commission has advertised to replace both her and Peter Clarke, who stepped down to become Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons earlier in the year. It is also recruiting an additional board member.

Applications for the roles closed on 20 June. Sussex said the commission would be looking specifically for candidates to have charitable expertise.

"I am very pleased to say we have had a very, very good and strong show from the charity sector," she said.

Lord Rooker, a Labour peer and committee member, asked Sussex whether anyone on the board had experience of working in third sector organisations.

Sussex said: "The board has a number of members who either have had charity experience or currently have serving experience on charities."

When questioned further by Rooker, she said this expertise extended to both working for charities and serving as a trustee.

She also told the committee that the commission prized its independence from government, which required "weekly vigilance" to maintain.

"Many people will seek to influence the direction of the commission, charities and complainants included," she said.

"But it is absolutely vital that decision by decision is taken so that we can see a straight line from the act through charity law, through what our colleagues – our very excellent team of case workers and lawyers – find to be the right result.

"It is something we need to pay attention to every week. This is a sector that draws a lot of attention or emotion."

In response to questions from Lord Harries of Pentregarth, Sussex said the commission had "taken very seriously" concerns raised by the National Audit Office in its reports from 2013 and 2014 that the Charity Commission’s board was too involved with the workings of the executive.

The House of Lords Select Committee on Charities, chaired by the Labour peer Baroness Pitkeathley, was formed on 25 May to consider issues related to sustaining the charity sector and the challenges of charity governance. It is due to report back by 31 March 2017.

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