New culture secretary pledges to 'hit the ground running' as key Charity Commission appointment looms

One of the first tasks in Nadine Dorries' inbox will be to appoint a new chair for the regulator

Nadine Dorries (Photograph: UK Parliament)
Nadine Dorries (Photograph: UK Parliament)

The new culture secretary, Nadine Dorries, plans to “hit the ground running” after Oliver Dowden was made Conservative Party chairman in yesterday’s reshuffle.

Membership bodies have given a cautious welcome to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s revamped ministerial team as his latest reshuffle continued today.

As the Office for Civil Society is part of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, one of the first tasks in Dorries’ inbox will be to appoint the next chair of the Charity Commission.

Her predecessor was criticised earlier this week for suggesting in a newspaper article that the appointment should “refocus” the commission’s remit.

But this was dismissed by one sector body as “hollow, culture war nonsense”.

Dorries, the MP for Mid Bedfordshire, will also oversee a number of bills going through parliament including the Charities Bill and the Dormant Assets Bill, which could unlock almost £900m in funds for good causes if passed.

Dorries was forced to apologise in 2013 after she failed to declare her £142,000 fee to the parliamentary standards watchdog for appearing on ITV's I'm a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! programme in the previous year.

Johnson’s reshuffle also included promoting Kemi Badenoch, the MP for Saffron Walden, to minister of state for levelling up and equalities.

Her brief will include the £4.8bn Levelling Up Fund, which is intended to provide cash for local projects in areas hit hardest by the pandemic, and where investment had lagged behind the rest of the UK.

It was cautiously welcomed by the sector at the end of last year.

Other ministerial changes include Dominic Raab being replaced as Foreign Secretary by Liz Truss, the MP for South West Norfolk.

At the time of publication, there had been no announcement on whether Baroness Barran, the minister for civil society, would remain in post.

Sarah Vibert, interim chief executive of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, said: “Charities have a huge role to play in the nation’s recovery from the pandemic, and in the government’s levelling up agenda.

“DCMS will be crucial to making the case across government for the role of civil society, and we look forward to working with the new secretary of state to strengthen the work of charities and volunteers.”

Stephanie Draper, chief executive of the international development umbrella body Bond, said: “It is critical that the new Foreign Secretary uses the upcoming international development strategy to ensure UK aid remains poverty-focused, and that the whole portfolio of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office delivers long-term, sustainable development for the most marginalised communities, while protecting human rights and civil society space globally.”

Jay Kennedy, director of policy and research at the Directory of Social Change, warned in a blog post that “a department for culture wars will not help charities or the country”.

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