Mystery over appointment of equality watchdog commissioners


The government has been unable to explain why it has performed a U-turn on cutting the number of commissioners appointed to the board of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).

Last week, the Government Equalities Office (GEO) announced the names of eight new commissioners, and two reappointed commissioners.

They will join five other EHRC board members who did not have to seek re-appointment, including the chair, Trevor Phillips.

But in July, the GEO said the number of commissioners would be cut from 15 to a maximum of 10 to “reflect a more streamlined and cost-effective board focused on delivering the equality bill”.

This week, a GEO spokesman insisted the U-turn was due to the “strong and impressive” field of more than 600 applicants.

He said: “In the summer we said that the board would be restructured with a new focus on delivery, and to ensure the commission has the right mix of skills for the next phase.

“Our priority was to ensure the recruitment of the best possible field of commissioners, bearing in mind our stated need for the board to be more tightly focused on delivery, with the right mix of skills, covering all the equality strands and more business expertise.”

But he said the strength of applicants allowed the GEO to appoint a “very strong board” who would “join the existing commissioners to create a stronger team to take forward the EHRC and help put the flesh on the bones of the equality bill”.

Meanwhile, the EHRC has announced the names of 61 community and voluntary organisations that will receive nearly £10 million in grants, as part of its strategic funding programme.

Several disabled people’s organisations secured large grants to develop advice, guidance and advocacy services.

They include Breakthrough UK, which secured £140,000; Darlington Association on Disability, which will receive £210,000; £150,000 for Disability Action Waltham Forest; and £300,000 for Disability Hackney.

Other recipients include Glasgow Disability Alliance, which secured £225,565 to develop the “next generation of disabled leaders”, in conjunction with Glasgow Centre for Inclusive Living; and Living Options Devon, which has been given £351,306 to test a new, Deaf-led, rural advocacy, information and peer support service.

26 November 2009