Appointment of the Chair of the Charity Commission - Public Administration Committee Contents

1  Report


1. Dame Suzi Leather took up the role of Chair of the Charity Commission on 1 August 2006 and left at the end of her second term on 31 July 2012. We would like to express our gratitude to Dame Suzi for her dedicated and exemplary service and her assistance to this Committee during her period in office.

2. John Wood, a member of the Charity Commission Board, has served since 1 August 2012 as an interim Chair. We would like to thank him for taking on this role while the recruitment process was ongoing.

3. On 29 August 2012 the Minister for the Cabinet Office, the Rt Hon Francis Maude MP, wrote to inform us that William Shawcross CVO was the preferred candidate for the post.[1] We held a pre-appointment hearing on 5 September 2012 to examine whether Mr Shawcross had the professional competences and personal independence necessary to perform this important role.

The Role

4. The Charity Commission is the independent registrar and regulator of charities in England and Wales. The Commission has existed in some form since 1853, with the register of charities dating from the 1960s.[2] It is a non-Ministerial Government Department with a budget for 2012-13 of £25.7 million.

5. The full role description and person specification issued by the Cabinet Office is at Appendix 2. The principal requirements of the post holder are to:

a)  ensure that the Commission:

i.  effectively fulfils its statutory objectives, general functions and duties and appropriately exercises its legal powers;

ii.  delivers its services in line with the Board, HM Treasury and Parliament's requirements; and,

iii.  regulates independently and impartially; minimising the regulatory burden on charities where possible.

b)  oversee the Board's strategies and plans for the future, including direction of policy;

c)  develop the Commission's key relationships with Government, sector bodies and other major stakeholders;

d)  in partnership with the Chief Executive, communicate the Commission's role to stakeholders including the public, charities and their users, the Government and Commission staff;

e)  ensure that the Board and its members operate in accordance with governance best practice and Nolan principles of standards in public life;

f)  direct, support and manage the Chief Executive including agreeing objectives and undertaking an annual appraisal, following consultation with other Board members.[3]

6. These are the competencies against which we assessed Mr Shawcross.

7. Mr Shawcross's CV is published at Appendix 3.

Terms of appointment

8. The appointment is for a term of up to three years, with the possibility of re-appointment for a second three-year term. The remuneration of the role is £50,000 per annum for two days per week. There is no pension attached to the role.

Selection Process

9. The selection panel was chaired by Mark Addison, a Public Appointments Assessor representing the Commissioner for Public Appointments, who is independent of the Government. The panel considered twenty-six applications and selected for interview the five candidates they considered best met the criteria. Three candidates were deemed appointable to the post and their names were forwarded to the Minister for the Cabinet Office. Mr Addison has confirmed that these three candidates were selected on merit through a fair and open process and that the recruitment process to select Mr Shawcross complied with the Commissioner for Public Appointments' Code of Practice for Ministerial Appointments to Public Bodies.

10. The Minister for the Cabinet Office met with all three candidates and selected Mr Shawcross. He stated that:

Throughout the selection process, William Shawcross demonstrated that he has the necessary skills and experience for this role, he would bring impressive intellectual and analytical credibility to the role, along with a sound understanding of the charity sector and a commitment to its independent, impartial and proportionate regulation.[4]


11. During the pre-appointment hearing we questioned Mr Shawcross on a range of issues including:

a)  His experience and suitability for the post;

b)  His ability to demonstrate independence from Government;

c)  Whether a two-day week represents a sufficient time commitment for this post;

d)  Funding of the Charity Commission;

e)  Public confidence in the charitable sector; and

f)  The issue of public benefit and faith/educational charities.[5]

Recommendation on appointment

12. We are satisfied that Mr Shawcross has both the professional competences and personal independence necessary to fulfil this role. We wish him every success as the Chair of the Charity Commission.

1   Appendix 1 Back

2   NAO, Regulating charities: a landscape review, July 2012 Back

3   Full job description at Appendix 2 Back

4   Appendix 1 Back

5   Evidence taken before the Public Administration Select Committee on 5 September, Appointment of the Chair of the Charity Commission, HC 315-II. Back

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© Parliamentary copyright 2012
Prepared 6 September 2012