Select Committee on Public Administration Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum by The Community Fund (PAP 52)

  1.  The Community Fund is pleased to respond to the important consultation being undertaken by the Public Administration Select Committee (PASC). We do not propose to respond to questions where we have no expertise and have confined our response to questions, which are relevant to our organisation.

BACKGROUND

2.  The Community Fund (whose legal name is National Lottery Charities Board) is an Non Departmental Public Body (NDPB), set up under the National Lottery etc Act 1993. Our sponsor department is the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). The Community Fund is one of the good cause distribution bodies set up under the lottery legislation whose remit is to make grants to charities and other eligible philanthropic and benevolent bodies. Currently we receive 4.7 pence in the pound from every lottery ticket purchased resulting in an annual income of just under £300 million a year.

  3.  The Board of the Community Fund consists of seventeen appointed members, including a Chair and Deputy Chair. Thirteen Board Members also sit on our Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and England Committees. All Board Members are appointed by the DCMS and for those appointments to the Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland Committees, the Secretary of State consults the devolved administrations.

  4.  In 1998, the Community Fund was given powers to devolve its grant making beyond the four Country Committees envisaged in the original legislation and, as a result, there are now nine Regional Committees for England, each consisting of ten members drawn from the individual regions. The Community Fund itself recruits and appoints the Chairs of these nine Regional Committees and the nine other members as well as recruiting three co-opted Committee members each for the Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland Committees.

COMMENTS

  5.  The main area of interest for the Community Fund in the PASC enquiry is the way in which Board Members are recruited when vacancies occur.

  6.  We consider that the present system is far from satisfactory. At present, and we do not know if this system will change, DCMS normally only advertises for the Chair and sometimes the Deputy Chair posts although from time to time there is a generic advertisement either for its NDPBs generally, or in the case of the Community Fund some two years ago, for Board appointments within the Community Fund. Otherwise shortlists are drawn up based on the DCMS's own list and that of the Public Appointments Unit. Usually interviews are conducted only for the Chair and Deputy Chair appointments. Other members are selected on the basis of their CV and the application form by, admittedly, a panel, normally of three people, one of whom is usually independent.

  7.  The Board of the Community Fund favours a transparent process including advertising, transparent longlisting and shortlisting, and interviews before appointments are made. This is not only to ensure consistency with the way in which co-opted Committee members and Regional Committee members are recruited and appointed but also to ensure that those interested in becoming Board Members have the necessary skills, experience and knowledge now required. We have person and job descriptions for all our appointed members.

  8.  Board Members are generally appointed for up to three years and can serve for a second term of up to three years without the need for formal re-application, although the Community Fund is putting an appraisal process in place so as to assist the Secretary of State on reappointment decisions after three years. Vacancies may arise from time to time if individual Board Members resign because of pressures of work or other reasons.

  9.  Generally speaking the Chair of the Board has not been much consulted about who is likely to be appointed, although we welcome a recent change in procedure for a current vacancy on the Board. We have asked that the next member of the Board should be the Chair of the London Regional Committee and the Department has agreed that the Board Chair will be able to interview a shortlist of candidates provided by the Department and to give advice to the Secretary of State before an appointment is made.

  10.  Although we understand the enormous pressures DCMS faces with having to make appointments to nearly seventy different NDPBs we none the less have pressed for a more open and transparent process based on best practice and best equal opportunity principles.

  11.  As far as those appointments are concerned for which the Community Fund is responsible, all vacancies to co-opted places on the Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland Committees and all the Chairmanships and places on the England Regional Committees are advertised openly and recruitment takes place through application, shortlisting and interview involving members of either the relevant Country Committee or the relevant Regional Committee and, where appropriate, the Chair of the Board interviews. In addition, the Community Fund has developed an approach to encouraging more members of the public in England to consider themselves for appointment to a regional Committee where they might not otherwise have done so.

  12.  This system of "appointment by lot" sees one or two places on each of the nine regional Committees in England filled on a different basis. (See also attached background note at Annex to this paper.) A number is chosen at random and individuals on the electoral role in particular parts of the region concerned from which representation is needed are then approached to see if they are interested in becoming a member of the Committee. Those who are interested are then interviewed and, if appointed, given appropriate support to become full and active members of the Committee. This process has been successful in bringing in a number of people who would not otherwise have considered public service, even though in some cases it has been hard for them to balance the competing demands of time required to carry out Community Fund duties with their other work and/or home commitments. The Community Fund intends to continue using this scheme for its Regional Committees.

  13.  To that extent, the Community Fund would support those who serve on public bodies being given proper time off for public duties on the basis of realistic estimates of what may be involved. The question of whether this should be remunerated needs to be considered as well as practice differs from one non-departmental public body to another.

  14.  Some clarity and consistency of approach is important to ensure that there is proper diversity in public appointments. There is no reason to assume that greater diversity should mean that merit is not the foremost factor in appointment. The point is to ensure that people from different ethnic backgrounds, age groups, disabled members of the population, both women and men, can put themselves forward for public office, and should be encouraged to do so.

  15.  The questions posed by the Select Committee suggests that election might be an alternative to an appointment. The Community Fund considers that clear and transparent appointment processes work provided the means of application, shortlisting and eventual appointment by the Secretary of State are clear and that the body for which an individual is being considered has the opportunity to be involved in the process and comment appropriately. The principle to be followed is that those appointed should have the skills and experience required to match a job description and person specification for the vacancy concerned. The Board is not clear on how any alternative election process would work and whether this would result in a better field of candidates with the relevant experience. The question arises about who would form the electorate and on what basis choices would be made.

  16.  The Community Fund considers that the Commissioner for Public Appointments has a useful and important role to play here in setting a framework against which individual public bodies can handle more of their own appointments where these do not need to be Secretary of State appointments. It is doubtful that there is wide public understanding of the Commissioner's role and the Code of Practice, which applies at the moment.

  17.  In short, the Community Fund favours open and transparent application and appointments processes to its own vacancies within a clearly understood framework which should apply both to appointments the Community Fund makes itself as well as those made to the main Board by the Secretary of State.

Annex

Community Fund's appointment "by lot" process

  The appointment by lot scheme was piloted in 1998-99 in the Community Fund's London and Yorkshire and Humber Regional Committees to fill two places with "ordinary" people. The then Chair of the Regional Committee, Martin Wainwright, had advocated the idea in a pamphlet "It should be You" published in early 1998 (copy enclosed[1]).

  The 1999 review of this pilot exercise distinguished four main objectives:

    —  To gain credibility for decision making by drawing on a wider range of views and being close to the people.

    —  To reaffirm the Board's commitment to transparency in the process of selecting decision makers.

    —  To broaden the knowledge base and range of views potentially available on a Regional Committee by securing the involvement of a more representative cross-section of society.

    —  To engender (or possibly revive) greater participation in public affairs by individual citizens and enhance civic responsibility generally.

  The scheme was subsequently rolled out to all the nine Regional Committees.

  There are no restrictions on the people who can be selected by this process in respect of age, gender, ethnicity, disability etc.

  They are required to have:

    —  An awareness of the region.

    —  Fairness to all branches of society.

    —  Knowledge of equal opportunities.

    —  The ability to be flexible.

    —  A readiness to question.

  The operation of the scheme is generally viewed positively although the members recruited by this means generally require considerable support, at least initially. We believe the scheme is well regarded by politicians.


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