Equality body’s two disabled commissioners quit its board


The equality watchdog’s two disabled commissioners have both resigned following the reappointment of its chair, Trevor Phillips.
Sir Bert Massie, the former chairman of the Disability Rights Commission, resigned in protest at Phillips’s leadership of the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
Baroness [Jane] Campbell is believed to have resigned for the same reason.
A third board member, human rights expert Francesca Klug, has also quit. Two other commissioners resigned earlier this year.
Sir Bert said: “The equality commission has done some good things. It could have done a great deal more and should have done a great deal more.”
He said it should have played a “much more prominent” role in promoting human rights, and added: “What disabled people need is a commission that is clearly fighting for them, and I am not sure people believe that at the moment.”
In his resignation letter, he said: “I have been concerned for some time about corporate governance…and had hoped that renewed leadership would enable [the EHRC]to achieve its full potential.”
But he said Phillips’s reappointment “dashed that hope”.
An EHRC spokeswoman said it was “always regrettable” when commissioners resigned, but it hoped to “work with them on our shared agenda”. She said the resignations would “not affect our day-to-day work”.
The resignations came as the EHRC published its strategic plan, amid suggestions of possible cost-cutting that will include reducing the number of commissioners from 15 to a maximum of 10.
Meanwhile, the National Audit Office (NAO) criticised the EHRC for paying more than £320,000 in consultancy fees to seven senior former employees of the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) – without the Treasury’s permission – just after they left the CRE with large voluntary redundancy payments.
The EHRC took over the duties of the CRE and the two other equality commissions in October 2007, but the NAO said it had 140 too few staff, and only 10 of 25 directors, in place by its launch. The seven were taken on because of these problems.
The NAO said the transition should have been better planned, although the EHRC had since improved its “controls and governance”.
The EHRC said it accepted it “did not follow the right procedures” in “re-engaging” the seven staff, but Neil Kinghan, its interim director-general, said it had “made a real difference for millions of people”, including more than 330 enforcement and legal actions.
20 July 2009