When the then Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden wrote in The Telegraph about how he wanted to take his ‘war on woke’ to the Charity Commission, and how he had given instructions to those appointing its new Chair, we were alarmed.
Regulators can be regulators or they can be tools of the Government’s political agenda, but they can’t be both. And Parliament had legislated for the Charity Commission to be free of political interference. So we issued judicial review proceedings.
The eventual appointment, Martin Thomas, was at first welcomed by the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, and the main trade associations for the charity sector. But we were not satisfied. We uncovered that Thomas had given the PM a vintage watch while he was Mayor of London. Moreover, he had been the subject of a number of complaints and reports of unsavoury incidents at charities with which he had been involved. He had not declared these as part of his appointment process and the due diligence process had been inadequate.
We turned these matters over to The Times, which ran the story and Martin Thomas promptly, and rightly, withdrew as Chair. He later also left NHS Resolution where he had been Chair.
Meanwhile, the Charity Commission began a process for appointing further trustees, promising better due diligence on candidates. No decision has yet been announced on a new Chair.
Courts do not welcome ‘academic’ judicial reviews and we do not think there is much more to achieve by continuing this action. So we have agreed a ‘drop hands’ deal with Dowden’s successor, Nadine Dorries. This means each side will pay its own legal costs and nothing more.
We will continue to monitor the process for appointing a new Chair and will not hesitate to act, again, if it is flawed.
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