Quango to offer jobs for the girls

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Indy Politics
Quangos are to be opened up so that many more women, ethnic minorities and people from rural areas will sit on their committees, the Secretary of State for Wales, Ron Davies, announced yesterday.

Mr Davies pledged to end the "jobs for the boys" culture which has led to some people sitting on many committees, often being paid considerable amounts. Mr Davies wants to go further than the rules set by Len Peach, the Commissioner for Public Appointments, who requires most paid posts to be advertised.

He is scrapping the current list of 7,000 people who are candidates for public appointment and will draw up a new list from people responding to public advertisements.

In future, Mr Davies said, posts will be advertised widely and candidates appointed strictly on merit. He said: "I want to ensure that the whole process of public appointments is open to scrutiny and is fully accountable."

Mr Davies's move can be seen as a precursor to a similar strategy in the rest of the UK. Welsh quangos have been particularly criticised in the past with a number of scandals involving chairmen and accusations of partronage, and Mr Davies was keen to act quickly on Labour election pledges to make quangos more accountable. Quangos have a particular prominent role in Wales with responsibility for many aspects of government including some, such as the Welsh Development Agency, which have no English equivalent.

The minister has responsibility for making around 700 appointments to public bodies in the principality. Under the new procedures, more than 1,000 members serving on around 100 quangos may also have to compete for reappointment when their term of office ends.They also include the Wales Tourist Board ( seven members) the Welsh Medical Committee (22) the Staff Commission for Wales (six) the Arts Council of Wales (18) and the Historic Buildings Council for Wales (seven).

Mr Davies said: "By opening appointments up to public advertising and selection against objective and publicly-stated criteria, we can put behind us the days of `jobs for the boys' and people appointed on the basis of who they knew or where they had lunch." He wants more "candidates for appointment who are not just from the Cardiff area but come from all parts of Wales".

Mr Davies said he intended to start with a new list of possible candidates, drawn from those responding to advertisements for public appointments and considered suitable for appointment.