Friday, 2 August 2013

Public Appointments: Still woefully unrepresentative

Figures released this week by the Commissioner for Public Appointments in its annual statistics on the diversity of public appointments, show that ethnic minority individuals are the biggest losers in being selected for roles on public boards with only 56 appointments and re-appointments out of 1087 made last year (5.5%) compared to 119 (7.2%) in 2011-12; the lowest level in more than a decade.
This contrasts with the number of female appointments, up from 33.9% in 2011-2012 to 35.6% in 2012-2013. The new figures are also in stark contrast to Census 2011 results that show that minority ethnic communities now make up 14% of the UK population.
The Commissioner for Public Appointments statistics include ethnicity, disability, age and political activity information in addition to gender and also include Welsh government appointments and re-appointments. On 14th February 2013, Sir David Normington published the Public Appointments Diversity Strategy saying:
the Commissioner for Public Appointments is committed to regulating an appointments process that routinely seeks to achieve diversity on the boards of public bodies. Though responsibility for making public appointments lies with Ministers, the Commissioner has an important role in promoting diversity and equality of opportunity in public appointments.”
He added:
on 1 April 2012, I introduced a new regulatory regime for public appointments, making it more proportionate, principles and risk based. The focus of the new system will be on three principles – merit, fairness and openness. It is designed to provide Ministers with a choice of high quality candidates, drawn from a strong and diverse field."
The Commissioner’s Public Appointments Diversity Strategy recognises that although public appointments are generally more diverse than those in the private sector, progress continues to be slow and there continue to be barriers to achieving board diversity which need to be tackled.
The Commissioner will encourage and challenge Departments to improve recruitment practice in public appointments. He intends to chair the selection panels for the most senior public appointments, demonstrate best recruitment practice and routinely challenging some of the unnecessary barriers that discourage or prevent some groups applying for public appointments.
However, with public appointments to ethnic minority candidates at the lowest levels in a decade, the need to urgently address this could not be greater.
Francine Fernandes