Commission chief voices surprise at lack of ‘mature debate’ about sector’s future

Commission chief voices surprise at lack of ‘mature debate’ about sector’s future
Civil Society Governance, By David Ainsworth
There is a lack of “mature debate” about the future of charity within the sector, Parliament and the media, Paula Sussex, the chief executive of the Charity Commission, has said.


In her first interview since taking the job, published today by Charity Finance and Civil Society News, Sussex said that she had seen little reflection on the future of a “vital sector for the health of society”, and that this had surprised her.


Sussex is a former trustee of homelessness charity Crisis, but until taking up the job at the Commission at the end of June, she had spent her working life in the private sector.


She said that she had encountered a few “cultural surprises” since taking up her current role.


“In particular, I thought there would be more mature debate about the future of the sector,” she said. “I thought I’d see it everywhere really. In the sector itself; in Parliament; in think tanks, and in the media. This is a vital sector for the health of society. We should be reflecting on that – on what the sector can do, on its strength and its power to improve things – and I’ve seen little of that.”


Change programme


Sussex also said that her organisations was in the middle of a “huge change programme” which will introduce new skills among staff, improve the IT in the organisation, and make the Commission a more proactive regulator.


“We intend to move from the point where the Public Accounts Committee was fairly strong in its criticism, to the point where we’re unequivocally a robust regulator,” she says. “The move towards being robust and proactive had already been started by the board before I joined.”


She said that her main focus was on ensuring that the public had trust and confidence in charities, but she was confident this priority would also help the sector.


“A strong regulator is good for charities,” she said. “A trustee said to me recently ‘a single bad apple harms us all’, and I hear that sentiment very often.”