Stoker departure brings voluntary sector dismay

The voluntary sector has expressed its disappointment at the departure of Compact Commissioner John Stoker. Key umbrella bodies representing voluntary groups have praised the progress Stoker had made since he was appointed in August 2006 and raised concerns about how his departure would affect the future direction and development of the commission.

Debra Allcock Tyler, chief executive of the Directory of Social Change, said she was concerned about continuity at the commission following the departure of chief executive Angela Sibson at the end of June.

“I am gutted because we thought he was a really good appointment,” she said. “I am a bit concerned because Angela Sibson resigned only three months ago, and we have to wonder what’s going on. It’s actually very destabilising.”

Stuart Etherington, chief executive of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, welcomed the appointment of Helen Baker as interim Compact Commissioner.

“The key issue now is how we go forward,” he said. “The NCVO is comfortable with the appointment of Helen Baker. We understand that this is an interim appointment and the role of the commissioner will be subject to review. We will continue to work with the Office of the Third Sector to ensure that we achieve an effective relationship between government and the voluntary and community sector at every level.”

Kevin Curley, chief executive of umbrella body Navca, said he was concerned that the departure would hold up the full implementation of the Compact and stressed the importance of appointing a new commissioner swiftly.

“I am deeply disappointed,” he said. “He was a man who took the trouble to come and meet organisations on their own territory. He listened very carefully to the things we had to say.

“I hope the Cabinet Office moves very quickly to approach someone else. With the comprehensive spending review round the corner, it’s very important that we have a strong advocate for the voluntary sector at a senior level within government – we don’t want a vacuum at this time.”

Chief executives body Acevo renewed its calls for the role of the commissioner to be given statutory powers. “The Compact Commissioner is an important post that will require a heavy-hitting candidate who can put the commission on the map,” said Acevo executive Stephen Bubb. “We will be asking [third sector minister] Phil Hope to consider this post on a statutory basis so we can drive forward progress on the Compact with a strong and firm voice. We are talking to NCVO about how we can further add support for the Compact Commissioner.”

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