25/10/2012 14:31 BST

Number Of Women Appointed To Public Bodies Decreases

Too few women are still being appointed to public bodies, a watchdog complained today as new figures showed the proportion dropped last year to just a third.

Public Appointments Commissioner Sir David Normington said it was "not good enough" that taxpayer-funded roles were still going so overwhelmingly to male candidates.

And he warned that the Government's controversial NHS reforms could make things worse still as a raft of bodies are scrapped that traditionally had more female members.

In 2011/12, data in the watchdog's annual report showed, women took 582 of the 1,740 appointments and reappointments to regulated bodies - 33.9%.

That is fewer than the 35.6% last year and well down on the 39% of a decade ago.

These figures might be seen as remarkable if they were achieved in the private sector," Sir David said.

"But I believe that in public bodies, which exist to serve the public and are funded by the taxpayer, they are not good enough."

His report said that the concern was increased "given the reduction in the number of bodies in the health service which have traditionally had a higher proportion of women".

"There has been limited progress in broadening the types of people appointed to public bodies over a 10 year period," Sir David added.

New rules to end political patronage and ensure the best candidates are chosen from a "diverse" field came into force in April.

Under the overhaul, the existing 100 pages of guidance have been ripped up and replaced by a nine page code of conduct based on "merit, fairness and openness".

"We need Government departments who have the capability and professionalism to attract the widest field of candidates and to make the best possible appointments.

"It is not a peripheral activity. It is central to the effectiveness of public service and governance in England and Wales," Sir David said.