Equality boss denies problems after resignations

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A director of Britain's equality quango insisted today that recent high-profile resignations were not a symptom of "deep trouble".

Ros Micklem, Scottish director of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), said she was sad that four of 16 commissioners had quit but that disagreements were natural.

Her comments came days after EHRC chairman Trevor Phillips broke his silence following criticism about his leadership.

Ms Micklem appeared before a Scottish Parliament committee to update MSPs on progress in Scotland.

Asked about the resignations, she said: "There have been disagreements and we're not pretending there haven't.

"We believe that's actually natural in an organisation where people are involved because they're very passionate about their causes.

"And it is bringing together a lot of different traditions, different points of view, and people feel very strongly about that.

"So it's not a surprise that there are differences of view."

Ms Micklem added: "(There was) a combination of unfortunate circumstances, but I don't think it's a symptom of an organisation that's in deep trouble, and I don't think it's undermined our ability to deliver what we were set up to do."

The EHRC took over from the Commission for Racial Equality, the Disability Rights Commission and the Equal Opportunities Commission in 2007.

Mr Phillips - who earns £120,000 for a part-time role - admitted on Saturday that there had been "serious managerial oversights" in setting up the watchdog and "painful lessons" learned.

The EHRC said commissioners were told in July that they would have to reapply for their positions on the board but Mr Phillips and Baroness Prosser were reappointed.

Within a few days, commissioners Francesca Klug, Sir Bert Massie and Baroness Campbell resigned. Several weeks later Ben Summerskill said he would leave after seeing out his term.

Ms Micklem said the EHRC had not been damaged in Scotland but staff had felt they were "under attack" at times.

"I don't think it's distracted us from what we're doing," she added.

Scotland has two official human rights watchdogs - the EHRC, which promotes fairness in matters such as race relations and sex or religious discrimination, and the Scottish Commission for Human Rights, set up by Holyrood, which concentrates on devolved issues.