Last month (3 November) I deplored the failure of Natural England (NE) to provide a board member to participate in the appointment of a new chief executive officer for the Peak District National Park Authority.
The park authority was rightly concerned by my comments and asked NE what it would like to do about this. Theresa Reid, head of human resources at the Peak Park, sent me a helpful email with the answer on 10 November:
Last Thursday I spoke with NE, who advised that whilst there is a statutory duty that requires NPs to consult NE prior to any appointment their involvement in the process is not essential (although over the past few years Board members have been involved to some extent but this has differed from park to park).
I briefed the Chair on this position and given where we are in the process and timescales, it was decided that we will consult with NE at the end of the process on the appointment as planned; seeking their approval and to ratify the decision.
However, I would like to assure you we do plan to consult with NE on the induction programme for the new appointee.
The park authority went through the appointment process and on 12 December announced that the new CEO is to be Sarah Fowler. She is currently head of field services at the Environment Agency, and has also worked for English Nature (NE’s predecessor), the RSPB and the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust. This all bodes well, and I am delighted that my fear that the authority might appoint a businessman or private-sector whizz-kid has not been realised. Congratulations to Sarah. I look forward to meeting her.
However, on 6 December the authority chairman, Councillor Lesley Roberts, sent an email to say that, while the authority members had unanimously agreed the appointment on 5 December, it couldn’t be announced until ‘all interested parties have agreed the appointment’. I have subsequently learnt that when the park authority contacted NE for its approval, senior people in the organisation were angry that they had not been involved earlier in the process! Sarah and Lesley had to travel to Penrith at short notice to meet an NE board member to approve the appointment.
If only those senior people had read my blog and done as I had proposed, they could have avoided an annoying and embarrassing delay. Let’s hope that NE now recognises that, should the situation arise again, it needs to be involved from the outset.