Charity chiefs express concern over Government renewal of Charity Commission chair's contract 9 months early
Categories: Latest News
Sunday February 01 2015
The Times reports on a letter sent by the head of the charities chief executives body, ACEVO (Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations), to the Cabinet Secretary, seeking clarity on the re-appointment of William Shawcross as chair of the Charity Commission nine months before his term was due to expire.
Sir Stephen Bubb, wrote to Sir Jeremy Heywood, raising questions over the Government’s decision to renew Shawcross’s contract for a further 3 years when his current term was not due to end until October 2015. Shawcross is a former trustee of the Henry Jackson Society.
The reappointment, which will see Shawcross work one more day at the Commission (three days a week compared to two days previously) comes as the Government embarks on introducing legislation to give the regulator more powers of intervention in the Protection of Charities Bill as well as £8 million to tackle abuse “including the use of funds for extremist and terrorist activity“.
Sir Stephen wrote “This will only add fuel to the fire of those who accuse the Charity Commission of being a plaything of government patronage, rather than a forceful, independent regulator.”
“The fact that this appointment has taken place less than three months before a general election will serve only to raise those concerns in the mind of the public.”
“They deserve and require assurance that due process has been followed,” he added.
Sir Stephen last year raised the issue of Muslim charities experiencing a ‘bias’ at the hands of the Commission. Muslim charities met with ACEVO last year to complain about the Charity Commission’s singling out of Islamic faith based charities for investigation and its publishing the names of charities under statutory inquiry before any wrongdoing had been proven damaging reputation and fundraising ability.
Sir Stephen’s letter to the Cabinet Secretary probing the reasons for the early re-appointment months before a general election comes at a sensitive time for Muslim charities which have faced unwarranted scrutiny by the Charity Commission as illustrated in a recent Claystone report.
Sir Stephen is said to have expressed “grave concerns” over Shawcross’s re-appointment seeking answers from the Cabinet Secretary over “who[m] had been on the appointments body and whether any other candidates had been considered.”
It would seem the Shawcross’s re-appointment has side-stepped the controversy of his initial selection which was opposed by a number of MPs on the Public Administration Committee over fears of his political bias and lack of impartiality. Among reasons cited by MPs on the committee were Shawcross’s support for the Iraq war, his comments defending Guantanamo Bay and his urging people to vote Conservative.
By renewing Shawcross’s contract months before it was due to expire and without any transparency over the process of re-appointment, the charge of “government patronage” will be difficult to avoid.