Memorandum by the Chairs of Probation
Boards in the North West of England Region (PAP 32)
I enclose herewith a submission for consideration
by the Select Committee on Public Administration prepared for
and on behalf of the five Chairs of Probation Boards in the North
We hope that the note is of assistance to the
Committee in its deliberations.
1. Some Public Appointments involve large
numbers and these should be seen as major organisational undertakings
and their handling and administration should be of a high order.
Some aspects of the recruitment of Probation Board Members in
2000-01 was badly organised and administered. This gives a poor
image to members of the public who put their names forward.
2. Many Public Appointments result in a
"short list" being put forward to Ministers and, to
the outside observer, the criteria for the Ministerial decision
is unclear. There should be greater transparency for this final
and critical stage in the selection process. The criteria for
appointment and selection should be clearly evident and applied
consistently throughout the process.
3. It is suggested that the Select Committee
should examine two aspects of the process. Firstly the quality
of the interviewing. The experience of some being interviewed
during the appointment to the Legal Services Commission was of
extremely basic flaws in the interview itself even though there
was an external adviser brought in to ensure quality. Secondly
there should always be good feedback. A number of Public Appointments
eg the Parole Board, have failed to give anything like adequate
feedback to experienced but unsuccessful candidates. Feedback
is always a problem but if Public Appointments are to be open
and transparent it is essential that this aspect is attended to.
4. High profile failures discredit the whole
system especially where blatant interference "appears"
to have taken place. A recent example of this was the appointment
and then the withdrawal of approval in respect of the recent interviews
for Chair of the Audit Commission. Ministerial interference was
blatantly obvious, and it serves as a "good" example
of such interference.
5. Central to any process involving the
recruitment of personnel to positions of responsibility is the
question of how selection is carried out. This must be the cornerstone
of the whole process since it determines who is included and who
is excluded. It is considered wholly more appropriate, relevant,
productive and fair that selection should be based upon evidence
of ability to "do the job" or to discharge the responsibilities
involved in the particular duty. Thus, the process of public advertisement
and selection made against clearly defined and relevant skills
and experience (and where appropriate qualifications) is preferred
to a system based upon election.
6. Some care can be required when drafting
person specifications for posts subject to appointment to ensure
that only those requirements, which are directly relevant and
necessary, are included. In addition, there is some evidence that
this process can work to "favour" older people simply
because they could be able to evidence longer experience in the
relevant field and may also feel more able to give the time commitment
involved. In order to respond to these issues consideration should
be given to balancing or weighing the value of greater length
of experience with the benefit to be gained by securing a greater
diversity from completely different perspectives eg from younger
people, the unemployed, service users etc. Such arrangements would
evidence that valuing diversity has some meaning and relevance
at Board or Committee level. In addition, some consideration could
be given to enabling younger members of staff and those in employment
to get time off from their "normal"duties in order to
increase the likelihood that people from such groups might feel
more able to express interest in the range of public appointments
that are advertised.
7. It is possible that more time effort
and resources could be devoted, possibly by Regional Offices/Associations,
to promoting and supporting the whole Public Appointments process.
This could involve and require:
taking a more proactive role in preparing
and publicising information on Public Appointments;
engaging with a wide range of organisations,
employers and other agencies to get the message across on the
importance of Public Appointments, how they are dealt with, together
with other relevant information to correct misunderstanding and
encourage expressions of interest from a wider representation
of the public.
8. It is hoped that these views, comments
and suggestions will be of assistance to the Select Committee
in its deliberations.
Chairs of Probation Boards in the North West Region,