Pressure mounts on EHRC boss

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The pressure on Trevor Phillips to resign as head of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has intensified, with another commissioner standing down over concerns about his leadership.
Ben Summerskill, chief executive of the gay rights charity Stonewall, is the latest board member to publicly criticise Phillips.
Summerskill said he would leave the EHRC board at the end of his three-year term in December.
It came as the disability charity RADAR expressed concern at the resignations of the EHRC’s two disabled commissioners, who quit after the government reappointed Phillips as chair for another three years.
Sir Bert Massie resigned in protest at Phillips’s leadership, saying he was concerned that the commission was not “clearly fighting” for disabled people.
His fellow disabled commissioner, Baroness Campbell, is also believed to have resigned over leadership concerns. A third commissioner, Francesca Klug, also quit. Two other commissioners resigned earlier this year.
Phil Friend, chair of RADAR, said his members had “raised queries and worries” about the EHRC’s reported difficulties.
He said the commission was “vitally important” to disabled people and urged it to work with the disability sector and “show the steps it is taking to achieve greater equality and human rights for disabled people in practice”.
Friend is to write to Phillips to ask him how he will replace the disability expertise of Sir Bert and Baroness Campbell.
He added: “I will seek to assure myself that momentum in the commission on disability is strong and RADAR will take its responsibility to hold the body to account in the interests of disabled people very seriously.”
Meanwhile, Alun Davies, appointed earlier this year to succeed Baroness Campbell as chair of the EHRC’s disability committee, said he was resigning for work and family reasons at the end of the year.
The commission will advertise for two new disability committee members, to take its membership from seven to nine.
The EHRC has already advertised for a maximum of eight new commissioners, to join Phillips and his deputy, Baroness Prosser, on a slimmed-down board. They will be paid £500 a day and work 20-30 days a year. The closing date for applications is 7 September.
The EHRC declined to comment on RADAR’s concerns, other than to point to its advert for new commissioners, at least one of whom will be disabled and will chair the disability committee.
29 July 2009

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