Which? chief executive to step down

Peter Vicary-Smith, one of the voluntary sector's highest-paid people, will leave the charity in September

Peter Vicary-Smith
Peter Vicary-Smith

Peter Vicary-Smith, chief executive of the consumer rights charity Which?, will step down in September, it has been confirmed today.

Vicary-Smith, who has been criticised for his large salary of £462,000 and handling of its membership, will leave to "pursue a portfolio career", the charity said.

Vicary-Smith has been at the helm of Which? for 13 years and before that was director of fundraising and communications at Cancer Research UK.

The charity said that it would begin recruiting a replacement in the next few weeks.

In a statement today, the charity credited Vicary-Smith with securing its financial future and for pioneering several major campaigns, including the call for creation of the Future Banking Commission.

He has also developed new legal, mortgage and trusted-traders services for consumers.

But Vicary-Smith has also been heavily criticised by some Which? members, who accused him of setting a high-pay culture for senior executives, and for the failure of some of its commercial activities, including its expansion into India.

In an investigation carried out by Third Sector in 2016, Patrick Taylor, a retired branch banker and coordinator of a pressure group calling for reforms at Which?, said: "These guys are already among the best paid in the charity sector. Which? argues that those receiving the payments are on the commercial side, but I don't think that's relevant. This is still a 100 per cent-owned charity. If you pay £2.24m to four members of staff, you have deprived the charity of £2.24m."   

In November, the pressure group secured reforms at the charity’s annual general meeting that it said would make the organisation more democratic and transparent.

Vicary-Smith said in a statement today that it had been a privilege to lead Which? over the past 13 years. "With the organisation on a strong commercial footing, it is now the right time for me to hand over the leadership of this remarkable organisation," he said.

Tim Gardam, chair of the Consumers’ Association – the charity behind the Which? brand – said: "I would like to thank Peter for his immense contribution to Which?’s growth and success over many years. He has provided an authoritative voice on behalf of UK consumers, dealing with government, regulators and business leaders, and has built an organisation capable of taking Which?’s mission into the digital future."

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