The Charity Commission has received 280 applications for the four or five vacant posts on its board.
Commission chair William Shawcross (pictured) told yesterday’s meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Civil Society that a lot of "politically active people” had applied for the positions, which will be remunerated at a rate of £350 per day for 12 to 18 days work per year. The term of office is three years.
The vacancies were first advertised in December and applications closed on 18 January.
The ad states that the appointees must be “people of high calibre” with “strong leadership skills along with the expertise to oversee the independent, impartial and proportionate regulation of the charity sector”.
One must be a lawyer and one must “know about the conditions in Wales”. One will be required to chair the audit committee and so must have an accountancy qualification.
Applicants must declare political activity
The application pack insists that applicants must declare any “significant political activity” undertaken during the last five years, because this may create a “significant conflict of interest” with the board role.
It states: “Given the need for the Charity Commission to be, and to be seen to be, impartial and independent in its regulation of charities, engagement in significant political activity (holding office, public speaking, making a recordable donation or candidature for election) is likely to prove a significant conflict of interest for candidates applying for this role.
“To allow the panel to explore conflicts of interest, and in particular political activity, with the candidates in the context of their ability to perform in the role, candidates should declare any significant political activity which they have undertaken in the last five years. This information will only be provided to the panel for those applicants selected for interview.
“Details of the successful candidate’s declared political activity will be published when the appointment is announced.”
The Commission’s last chair, Dame Suzi Leather, was a member of the Labour Party and her appointment was widely condemned by those on the right as a political one. Shawcross, the new chair, has already come under fire from Labour and LibDem MPs for his links to the Conservative Party.
Candidates notified this week
The person specification also states that candidates should have a sound knowledge of the charity sector and “an established reputation with experience or knowledge from one or more of the private and charity/not for profit sectors”.
The appointments will be made by the Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude. According to the Commission, the timetable has slipped a bit because of the large volume of applications. Sifting of applications will now take place in mid-February and interviews in late February and early March. The new board members will start on 1 April.
Shawcross: Lot of marvellous people
Baroness Gardner used yesterday’s meeting to express concern that the ‘political activity’ aspect of the person specification would rule out district and local councillors who might have extensive knowledge of the charity sector and potentially be very suitable candidates.
Shawcross assured her it would not exclude such people and added: “We’ve had a lot of really marvellous people – it’s going to be very difficult to sift them. Quite a number of politically active people, from all political persuasions, have applied.”