Third Sector: New Charity Commission Chief has a Tough Job

Debra Allcock Tyler, chief executive of the Directory of Social Change, has expressed concern at the lack of charity sector experience of Paula Sussex, the incoming chief executive of the Charity Commission.

The commission announced today that it had appointed Sussex, a qualified barrister and a senior vice-president of the consulting and outsourcing firm CGI, as its next chief executive.

The information provided by the commission showed that her only recent voluntary sector experience was six years as a trustee of the homelessness charity Crisis.

Allcock Tyler told Third Sector: “The appointment sends quite subtle signals that private sector expertise and experience are thought to be required to sort out the problems of the commission.

“But it seems her only experience of the sector is being a trustee of Crisis, which is a £22m charity with £15m of reserves; that is not reflective of the sector she will be regulating, which consists mainly of small charities.”

She said this meant Sussex would not understand the issues surrounding smaller charities. “It’s a pity the commission doesn’t seem to care much about small charities,” she said.

Sam Younger, whom Sussex will succeed on 30 June, has more sector experience, but not at small charities. Younger’s prior role was as interim chief executive of the Bell Educational Trust, which has an annual income similar to that of Crisis. Before that he was interim head of the homelessness charity Shelter, chair of the Electoral Commission for eight years and director general of the British Red Cross for two.

Sir Stephen Bubb, chief executive of Acevo, the body for charity leaders, said Sussex’s experience at Crisis “will give her first-hand experience of the challenges charities face”.

He said: “She has a tough job on her hands to turn around the reputation of the commission and manage its leadership against dwindling resources. Acevo will be a friend to her – though a critical friend – and as the voice of charity leaders we will support her along the way.”

Sir Stuart Etherington, chief executive of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, said Sussex would need to provide strong leadership in difficult circumstances.

“The Charity Commission is going through challenging times,” he said. “Upping the rigour of its enforcement work despite a very tough funding settlement from government will require strong leadership.”

Emphasising the commission’s current difficulties and financial challenges, Joe Irvin, chief executive of the local infrastructure body Navca, said: “My biggest hope is that, rather than looking inwards, Paula looks to all the organisations that can help. Local infrastructure charities can be valuable partners in supporting healthy local charities. I look forward to working with her.”

Leslie Morphy, chief executive of Crisis, said: “We are pleased that the Charity Commission has appointed someone who understands the importance of campaigning in the charity sector as well as some of the difficulties of providing services to the most disadvantaged members of our communities.”

Sussex’s former boss Tim Gregory, UK president of CGI, said he wished Sussex success in her role, and said her move would be a loss to the company.

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