Huddleston responds to concerns over independence of next Charity Commission chair

Charities minister Nigel Huddleston has offered assurances that the next Charity Commission chair will be independent, despite concerns the government wants an appointee to pursue an ‘anti-woke’ agenda against the sector.

Huddleston was responding to a parliamentary question by shadow charities minister Rachael Maskell asking what steps are being taken by the government to ensure that the new chair of the regulator is independent.

“One of the essential criteria in the person specification for the role, which will be tested in interviews, is a commitment to the charity sector’s effective, independent, proportionate, and impartial regulation,” said Huddleston.

He added that the process is being run “in line with the Governance Code on Public Appointments”.

He has offered the assurances amid fears that the government is looking to influence the appointment process, to recruit a candidate that will tackle charities which are looking to address historic links with slavery.

In September then Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said that he had “instructed” recruiters to seek to “restore charities’ focus” after launching a scathing attack on charities that have sought to address their historic links to slavery.

Dowden, who is now Conservative Party co-chairman and has been replaced by Nadine Dorries, claimed that the charity sector has been “hijacked by a vocal minority seeking to burnish their woke credentials”.

His comments have sparked a legal challenge by the Good Law Project around the recruitment process for the new Charity Commission chair.

Earlier this month the Project demanded to see communications around the recruitment process, amid concerns it has become “yet another example of this Government’s shameless attempts to install its allies at the top of our public institutions”.

Recruitment timeframe questioned

Maskell has also asked the government to confirm a timeframe over the appointment of a new chair.

Huddleston confirmed that the role is being covered on an interim basis by Ian Karet until the end of the year “or until a new Chair is appointed”.

He added that the “DCMS are in the process of appointing a new Chair to the Charity Commission board” and that ‘the preferred candidate will attend a pre-appointment hearing in front of the DCMS Select Committee”.

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