Written evidence from The Public Chairs’ Forum (NED06)

Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee

The Role of Non-Executive Directors in Government inquiry



  1. Introducing Public Chairs’ Forum


Founded in 2007, Public Chairs’ Forum (PCF) is a unique membership network, exclusive to Chairs of Public Bodies.


PCF seeks to strengthen UK public services, by providing peer support, insight, inspiration and education for Chairs of Public Bodies.


PCF members are frequently invited to engage with central government consultations, roundtables and projects influencing change across public bodies.


Sarah Healey CB, Permanent Secretary at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is PCF central government sponsor.


Membership of PCF is available to Arm’s-Length Bodies; whether Non-Departmental Public Bodies (NDPB) or Executives Agencies, ranging in size and operating in a variety of fields from regulation to operational delivery. 


PCF is currently chaired by Helen Pitcher OBE, Chairman of the Criminal Cases Review Commission.

PCF is based at the Institute for Government’s offices in Carlton Gardens, London.



  1. Introducing our evidence


Recognising governance in government and public service is not well understood, PCF and Nous Group recently published ‘The Chair in Government’:



Released in July 2022, this research report was based on a sample of survey responses and a range of interviews with chairs of public bodies and civil servants.


While we acknowledge the role of chair of the public body may be distinct from roles on departmental boards, we consider there may be elements of our recent insight which provide helpful stimulus for PACAC consideration.

Our research findings, and their particular relevance for PACAC’s inquiry, are summarised below.




  1. Summarising our evidence


A.     The public body chair role is uniquely rewarding, providing a distinct opportunity to give back


Many of these motivations may also drive current and potential departmental board members. It is important that recruitment processes, and the way appointees are engaged with when in post, provide the necessary encouragement and opportunity to participate in line with these motivations.


B.      The public sector is a more complex and constrained space than the private or third sector


As for ALB boards, departmental boards need sensitivity – and support – to understand the constraints of working within government, the range of stakeholders involved, and the specific needs of their particular department.


C.      A distinct set of skills and attributes are required to be an effective public body chair

While the skills of ALB chairs have many similarities with chairing roles in other sectors, the government environment is often more complex and ambiguous.

Personal attributes

Attentiveness, credibility, courage, curiosity, empathy, enthusiasm, generosity, humility, resilience, restraint, sound judgement.


Professional skills


Working with government


As for ALB boards, the above skills may be prioritised when assessing the suitability for appointment of departmental board members.



July 2022