The Commissioner for Public Appointments

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Public Appointments Commissioner - Annual Report 2013/14 (5 November 2014)

SIR DAVID NORMINGTON – RECORD HIGH PERCENTAGE OF WOMEN APPOINTED TO PUBLIC BOARDS AND PROGRESS ON BME APPOINTMENTS

Appointments made to the boards of public bodies regulated by the Commissioner for Public Appointments show a record high percentage of women appointed in 2013 /14 and a marked improvement in numbers of ethnic minority candidates appointed.

Publishing his 2013 /14 annual report which details his work in regulating Ministerial appointments to over 280 public bodies, David Normington said:

“The improvements I reported last year have been sustained and, slightly, bettered. In 2013-14 39.3% of total appointments and reappointments were women (compared with 35.6% in 2012/13); even more encouraging, women constituted 41.1% of new appointments (compared with 39.9%). The figures can vary from year to year, but these are the best results for women that we have seen; and the encouraging evidence is that improvement is being sustained. The next challenge is to see more of the women who have been appointed to boards progressing to take up chair positions.

“I reported last year a worrying fall in the proportion of people from ethnic minorities gaining board roles. There is better news in this year’s figures with 7.7% of board appointments coming from ethnic minorities (compared with 5.5% in 2012/13). But this is just one year’s figures and we need to see further growth and sustained improvement. This is where the attention of recruiters needs to focus in the coming year. My own work this year shows that progress can be made as much by small practical steps, as by grand gestures. For example, in attracting candidates from minority communities, it really matters how you get information about the vacancies to those communities; how the role is described; what kind of experience is sought; and whether there are people in similar board positions from those communities who can act as role models. When a search firm is used, the contract should set an expectation that a diverse field will be searched and found. “

David Normington continued:

“The progress that has been made in attracting women board members shows what can be achieved when the Government itself gives a lead. It would be great to see the Government giving the same lead on other forms of diversity in the coming year.

“One thing, we know, that puts off potential candidates is when they get the impression from “well placed sources” or media reporting that a favoured candidate has already been lined up for a particular vacancy . While press reporting focuses on about 1% of high profile appointments it can have a disproportionate influence on attitudes to public appointments. It can create a view that appointment depends on personal favouritism or political preference; which in turn reinforces the impression of an elite perpetuating itself. It is worth noting that contrary to media stories in the last year the figures on political activity remain at a very low level. However, the evidence is that very few of those appointed to public bodies have undertaken political activity. Only 107 appointees and reappointees (5.0%) declared political activity in 2013-14, compared with 9.0% in 2012-13. This is the lowest figure in the last ten years.

“It is incumbent on all of us involved in public appointments to get across the message that the system is designed to find the best person after a fair and open process, and that we all want the widest field of applicants.”

Notes to Editors

1. Media enquiries about the work of the Commissioner for Public Appointments should go to Maggie O’Boyle on 07880 740627.
2. Sir David Normington was appointed Commissioner for Public Appointments for England and Wales and First Civil Service Commissioner on 1 April 2011.
3. The post of Commissioner for Public Appointments was created in 1995 following a report by the Committee on Standards in Public Life, chaired by Lord Nolan.
4. The Commissioner for Public Appointments regulates the processes by which Ministers (including Welsh Assembly Government Ministers) make appointments to the boards of national and regional public bodies. He also currently regulates appointments processes in relation to some bodies in Northern Ireland.
5. For more information about the work of the Commissioner go to: http://publicappointmentscommissioner.independent.gov.uk

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