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I was taken aback by the panel on charity pay

I’ve learned from bitter experience from putting together judging panels for various magazine awards that there’s never an ideal panel. Choose lots of sector heavyweights and you’ll probably face accusations of the panel being too male, pale and stale; choose lots of less well-known faces and you’ll be accused of the panel lacking the necessary gravitas.

No matter who you choose, normally someone will pick fault.

But I have to admit that I was taken aback by the make up of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations’ Executive Pay Inquiry group, which will explore appropriate levels of pay for charity senior executives.

The 17-strong panel includes a Lord, two Knights, and a host of individuals one would assume from their job titles either earn or have earned six-figure salaries. In fairness to the NCVO and the group, there are also a number of chairs of charities of varying sizes represented who may have never earned such high amounts.

But equally I was left wondering: where are the Dorothy Donors and Joe Averages? It was they after all who wrote to charities and newspapers in their droves to criticise levels of pay. And what of the high-profile critics such as Charlie Elphicke MP and philanthropist Gina Miller – should they at least have a place around the table to provide a dissenting voice?

A few obviously younger faces, such as chair the British Youth Council or the president of the National Union of Students, may well offer some different viewpoints.

A spokeswoman for NCVO assures me that the panel holds a diverse range of views, pointing out that Lord Phillips of Sudbury, the chancellor of University of Essex, has previously been critical of high pay, and John Stewart, chair of both Guide Dogs and Legal & General, has challenged remuneration packages offered in the private sector. The group will also hear lots of evidence from critics of charity high pay as part of its inquiry.

I do wonder, though, whether the group’s composition will be used as yet another stick with which to beat the sector and how seriously its conclusions will be taken. Perhaps there should be a few late additions.

  • “where are the Dorothy Donors and Joe Averages?” … where they always are … in the dark! It is a very predictable grey panel of the same old faces who can be expected to produce something anodyne … within the sector there is a real split between the (underpaid) workhorses and the elite of charities that are often heavily cushioned on public funding and develop a comfy layer of really really mediocre managerial tiers that are frankly over paid. Certain jobs … finance, IT etc have to meet market rates at whatever level, but really in the private sector how many charity managers on £60k plus would get more … very few … very few. For a sector that is well used to criticising others we rarely apply the same scrutiny to some of the old knackers & fraus muddling along incompetently.

    • Annie Weatherly-Barton

      I couldn’t agree more! Just typical. The great and…. I could say something but twoud be rude!!! We are all non-paid workhorses. We desperately need to raise more money but alas and alack not that many care about what happens to our young people or all the other small charities! Many of these charities are run with the goodwill of very hardworking people who are already very busy people giving their time for the benefit of the whole community. We have turned around our Trust with next to nothing. Just the same old, same old!

  • Wally Harbert

    It is the large national charities that draw public criticism about chief executives pay whereas most charities are small and tend to pay poorly. As you say, however it is composed, no panel will be ideal

    I am more concerned about the horse-trading that will go on to get 17 people to reach agreement. A team of three, advised by 17 would be a far more productive way to proceed but, I suspect too many high fliers want to be in the driving seat and would not be willing to play second fiddle..