Appointment of Charity Commission chair

CEOs of five leading charity sector umbrella organisations have written to Matt Hancock to express serious concerns over the appointment of the chair of the Charity Commission.

Dear Secretary of State,

The appointment of Baroness Stowell as Charity Commission chair

On 9 February we wrote to the DCMS Committee regarding our concerns about the appointment process for the Charity Commission chair. We sought reassurance that the appointment would be in line with the governance code on public appointments in order that members of the public and charities can have trust and confidence in the process and the position.

These concerns were unanimously shared cross-party by members of the DCMS Committee. The Committee also raised a number of other issues which must call into question the presentation of Baroness Stowell as the best possible candidate for the role.

In the pre-appointment hearing Baroness Stowell said that if she were confirmed in post her priority would be to improve public trust in the charity sector. Should this appointment go ahead despite the unanimous outcome of the Committee’s deliberations, and the concerns raised by us and other representatives of the sector, we believe that every directive, inquiry and difficult decision that the Charity Commission makes will be open to the allegation of being influenced by party politics. This will ultimately damage public trust and the trust of the sector in its regulator.

The Charity Commission is a non-ministerial government department. If the Parliamentary Committee responsible has unanimously rejected the nominated candidate, and in those circumstances that candidate is appointed by the government anyway, then we question how the Commission can be fully accountable to Parliament. The independence of the Charity Commission risks being significantly undermined; this creates concern about the constitutional status of the Commission and goes to the heart of the relationship between this government and the sector.

In your speech at the Charity Commission annual public meeting you said to charities “I pledge that I will be by your side all the way.” In light of the concerns discussed in this letter we ask you to reconsider confirming Baroness Stowell’s appointment and request a meeting at the earliest opportunity to discuss reforming the appointment process for future appointments.

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