‘He really knows the guts of the Commission’ – sector reacts as regulator appoints CEO

07 Feb 2024 News

David Holdsworth, incoming CEO of the Charity Commission

The Charity Commission has appointed David Holdsworth as its next chief executive and sector bodies have welcomed his appointment.

He will take over as chief executive of the regulator from Helen Stephenson, whose term comes to an end this summer.
Holdsworth, who has been chief executive of the Animal and Plant Health Agency since 2022, will take up the role on 1 July 2024.
He was previously deputy chief executive of the Intellectual Property Office, and prior to that was at the Charity Commission as deputy chief executive and registrar. 

While at the Commission, he worked on transformation around data handling, digital capability and risk assessment.

Holdsworth also oversaw the regulator’s response to the Grenfell Tower fire and helped set up the National Emergencies Trust, the Commission said.

Prior to joining the Commission, Holdsworth spent over a decade at the Home Office in various roles including senior operational roles in the immigration service.

The Commission said it received 65 applications for the role, a record number.

Its recruitment panel was chaired by civil service commissioner Atul Devani and included serving Commission board members Mark Simms, Pippa Britton and Jo Prowse along with former board member Claire Dove who now serves as Cabinet Office representative for the Voluntary Sector. 

Holdsworth: ‘Delighted to be returning’

Holdsworth said he was “delighted to be returning to the Charity Commission and its vital work at such a crucial time”. 

“It will be a privilege to once again work with the Commission’s dedicated and talented experts,” he said.  

“Charities have always played a vital role in our national life, our communities and our ability to move forward together as a society. Never has this been more needed than now.

“I look forward to working with the sector as they work today to achieve a better, brighter tomorrow for us all. 

“I would also like to pay tribute to my incredible colleagues at the Animal and Plant Health Agency. The UK is lucky to have such an amazing group of people protecting our economy, animal, plant and bee health for the benefit of us all.”

Commission chair: ‘Outstanding candidate’

Orlando Fraser, chair of the Charity Commission, said Holdsworth was the “outstanding candidate for the panel, among a diverse and talented group of applicants”.  

“David brings the experience, talent and character required to lead the Commission into the next leg of our historic journey as the world’s most experienced charity regulator. In doing so, we will build on Helen Stephenson’s successful legacy,” he said.  

“David takes over an organisation on a strong footing, with a committed board, experienced senior team and dedicated staff.

“He joins at a time when the charity sector has never been more important and visible in our national life, requiring an expert regulator, that is fair, balanced and independent, to underpin public trust and help the sector to thrive.”

Minister for civil society Stuart Andrew said: “David’s wealth of experience as deputy CEO at the Charity Commission, and most recently as chief executive of the Animal and Plant Health Agency, make him brilliantly placed as CEO to oversee the 170,000 registered charities in the coming years." 

“I’d like to thank Helen Stephenson for her dedication and service over the past seven years and wish her well for the future."

NCVO: Holdsworth brings sector experience 

Sarah Vibert, CEO of NCVO, said: “Our warmest congratulations to David Holdsworth on the announcement of his appointment as CEO of the Charity Commission.

“At NCVO, we know 2024 will be another important year for charities.

“As organisations across the country continue to overcome the increasing pressures of falling income, rising costs and increased demand, it is vital charities get the support they need to continue helping their communities.

“David brings with him a wealth of experience and a deep understanding of the charity landscape at this critical time.

“We thank Helen Stephenson for all she has achieved in her time with the Charity Commission and look forward to building on our collaborative relationship as we work with David to create a brighter future for our sector.”

ACEVO: ‘A damn good regulator’

Jane Ide, chief executive of ACEVO, said she was “so pleased to see” Holdsworth’s appointment.

“I worked with David H. when he was previously at the Commission, when he played a hugely important part in process of convening local and national charities to really interrogate our response to the Grenfell disaster and where we could have done better for the people that needed us,” she wrote in a LinkedIn post.

“That process led ultimately to the creation of the National Emergencies Trust and the VCS Emergencies Partnership, two organisations that I will always be incredibly proud to have played a part in building, and that have gone on to make real impact for the sector and the communities we serve.

“And besides that, I know David to be a damned good regulator and that is really important to the success and sustainability of our sector.

“So I look forward enormously to welcoming David into his new role in a few months' time, and to working alongside him and his colleagues at the Commission for the good of the sector we both care so much about.”

DSC: ‘He really knows the guts of the Commission’

Debra Allcock Tyler, Directory of Social Change chief executive, said Holdsworth was an “excellent choice”.

“David knows it and the charity sector well from his previous roles there as director of operations and deputy chief executive, and has gained further experience leading other regulators since he left in 2019,” she said.

“He really knows the ‘guts’ of the Commission and its and day-to-day work. In our experience he has always been very open, accessible, and committed to improving the Commission’s performance.

“With a refreshed strategy about to be launched and a general election on the horizon there will be big issues to deal with, but he brings a great combination of skills and experience to the challenges ahead.”

National Emergencies Trust: Holdsworth ‘pivotal’ to our inception

Mhairi Sharp, chief executive of the National Emergencies Trust, said: “During his time as deputy CEO of the Charity Commission, David was pivotal to the inception of the National Emergencies Trust.

“He had a vision of bringing the charity sector together during UK disasters to create the best outcomes for those affected.

“He convened sector leaders to build an independent charity that could achieve this vision and a handful of years later the trust has raised and distributed £100m and touched thirteen million lives.

“So as you can imagine, I’m delighted to see David step into the CEO role today and excited to see what’s next for the sector under his stewardship.”

Sarah Atkinson: Welcome to see appointment from outside of London

Sarah Atkinson, chief executive of the Social Mobility Foundation who was director of policy and communications at the Commission, said Holdsworth was “a great choice”.

“I know he’s deeply conscious of the important role the regulator plays in enabling charities to adapt and thrive, and of the pressures from rising demand and falling income so many of us are dealing with,” she said.

“I expect him to be energetic and collaborative in his approach to the job.

“It’s also welcome to see such a senior appointment outside London.”

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