THE BLOG

Demographic Audit: Diversity of Appointments to Public Bodies

27/08/2015 11:00 BST | Updated 27/08/2016 10:59 BST

A few weeks ago, the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments (OCPA) published its annual statistics. OCPA 'regulates the processes by which Ministers (including Welsh Ministers) make appointments to the boards of national and regional public bodies', so the annual statistics show us how many appointments and reappointments were made over the year, and the characteristics - such as gender, ethnicity and political activity - of the appointees.

OCPA kindly provides data back to 2000/01, though it would be even kinder if it were published in a spreadsheet, as well as a PDF report.

In the year to 31 March 2015, OCPA regulated 1,888 appointments and reappointments (121 chairs and 1,767 members). Since the publication of the Public Appointments Diversity Strategy in December 2013, the presumption should be that reappointments are 'the exception rather than the rule, to encourage greater diversity in new appointments'.

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However, from the data provided, it's difficult to tell whether this is the case. Charting appointments and reappointments as a percentage of all appointments made during the year, we see a relatively steady split of 55-45, with the exception of 2011-12. This would suggest that the new presumption has not changed the situation - but without knowing more about the individual processes (how many existing members wanted to be reappointed, for example), it's impossible to be certain.

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The percentage of appointees (and re-appointees) who are women is at its highest-ever level - 45.2% of appointees where the gender is known. This has increased from 33.9% in 2011/12.

The percentage of appointees from an ethnic minority (7.9%) is at its highest since 2008/09, although remains lower than the 14% of the general population who are from an ethnic minority (according to the 2011 census). However, the percentage of appointees with a disability (4.6%) has fallen to its lowest level since 2009/10, which OCPA described as 'disappointing'.

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A lot of comment focuses on the politicisation of appointments. In fact, the overwhelming majority of those appointed declare no political affiliation: in 2014/15, only 4.5% declared any political activity, the lowest level ever. This was down from 4.9% last year and around 20% in 2001/02. In every year except 2012/13, more appointees have declared Labour activity than for any other party, when the Conservatives edged ahead.

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An often-overlooked aspect of diversity is age. In 2014/15, 42% of appointees were in the 56-65 age bracket, and 23% were 66 or older, compared to just 5% - one in twenty - who were aged 35 or below. The imbalance is even clearer for chairs only - there were no chairs aged 45 or under, perhaps reflecting the expectation that chairs will have previous chairing experience externally or prior board experience. Appointees - members and chairs - are more likely to be 66 or older compared to the set of appointments and reappointments in 2010, although the percentage of members aged 35 and below has increased slightly.