EHRC in turmoil as commissioners quit and accounts criticised

Three more commissioners have resigned from the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) over concerns about the organisation’s leadership.

Jane Campbell, Francesca Klug and Bert Massie all resigned from the EHRC’s board over the weekend, after Trevor Philips was re-elected as chair on 15 July. Another commissioner, Ben Summerskill, chief executive of the gay rights group Stonewall, is expected to resign by the end of the week.

In March, Kay Hampton, the former chair of the EHRC’s predecessor the Commission for Racial Equality, chief executive Nicola Brewer and Patrick Diamond, the group director of strategy, also quit.

In his resignation letter, Massie said he had been concerned about “corporate governance” at the EHRC. He added: “The chairman’s conduct in various ways has damaged the commission’s external reputation.”

An EHRC spokesman told Personnel Today: “It is always regrettable when commissioners resign and, given their wide-ranging experience and expertise, we hope that we will still work with them on our shared agenda. However, their resignations will not affect our day-to-day work making a real difference to people across Britain.”

Meanwhile a report by the National Audit Office (NAO) has found the EHRC was so under-staffed when it became operational in October 2007 that seven employees who had accepted voluntary redundancy from its predecessor, the Commission for Racial Equality, were re-employed against government guidelines.

The report also said the organisation lacked half of the directors needed and had a staffing shortfall of 140 employees, so the seven workers were re-hired as consultants and paid more than £320,000.

The NAO said the reappointments should have been cleared with the Treasury and called for the £629,000 in severance pay given to these seven workers to be repaid.

Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office, said: “Delays in bringing in resources sufficiently quickly meant that, when [the EHRC] started doing its job, it lacked more than half of its complement of directors, and made the mistake of re-employing some senior staff from predecessor bodies without authority.”

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