Charity leaders criticise Baroness Stowell’s call to halt ‘party politics and culture wars’

Charity Commission chair Baroness Stowell has once again incurred the wrath of voluntary sector leaders, this time for urging charities to “leave party politics” and “culture wars” out of their work.

In a Mail on Sunday article, former Conservative Party minister Stowell told charities that “there’s more than one way to help those in need, but if you want to improve lives and strengthen communities through charity, you need to leave party politics and the culture wars out of it.”

Her article adds that issues such as Brexit, human rights and inequality have sparked “new divisions which don’t neatly respect party lines”.

She said that “for charities to survive and thrive in this environment, particularly after this most difficult of years, it is even more important that they demonstrate sensitivity and respect for everyone”.

Stowell’s comments have sparked outrage among charity leaders.

Katherine Sacks-Jones, the chief executive of children’s charity Become said there is “so much to disagree with” regarding Stowell’s comments.

In addition, UK Youth chief executive Ndidi Okezie, said that she was “perplexed” by Stowell’s stance and said that “progress doesn’t happen by making sure everyone feels comfortable”.

Meanwhile, shadow health minister and former chief executive of not for profit think tank the Young Foundation, also raises concerns about Stowell’s view of charities’ role.

This is the latest controversy to embroil Stowell, who served as deputy chief of staff to Conservative leader David Cameron and was a coalition government minister.

This autumn it emerged she is to leave the regulator and not seek a second term.

Senior charity sector figures, including ACEVO chief executive Vicky Browning and Small Charities Coalition chief executive Rita Chadha, called on MPs to prioritise “transparency, accountability and political neutrality” when assessing her successor.

They cited concerns about her appointment and performance in the role.This includes comments by Stowell that charities need to be meeting public expectation which charity leaders warn is “a significant shift from the function of the regulator”.

The charity leaders' letter also notes that the DCMS select committee had recommended unanimously against Stowell’s appointment “due to serious concerns about her experience and political associations”.

Stowell attracted further criticism this year after being accused of launching an “attack on lefty lawyers”.

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