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What does it take to be a great chair of an arm's-length body?


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Nous Group and the Public Chairs’ Forum are pleased to launch a new report, “The Chair in Government”, that sheds new light on the role of the chair of arm’s-length bodies (ALBs).

ALBs are an enduring part of government, with 295 ALBs accounting for a gross annual expenditure of about £265 billion and a workforce of almost 300,000.

The report, the first of its kind, draws on more than 30 interviews with chairs and more than 30 surveys. It draws on these responses to answer four key questions:

  • What is unique about the ALB chair role?
  • How does the chair role differ between ALBs?
  • What does it take to be a high performing ALB chair?
  • How can stakeholders support the chair?

“In this period of economic pressure and civil service reform, it is important to pay attention to less well appreciated parts of UK public service,” said Helen Pitcher OBE, Chair of the Public Chairs’ Forum. “Arm’s-length bodies play an essential role – their effectiveness and efficiency directly impact the daily lives of every one of us.”

“The governance of public bodies is a critical differentiator in their performance – and the chair makes a pivotal contribution,” said Peter Horne, the Nous Principal who led the report. “This report aims to enhance understanding of the chair's role and shows how defining best practice can encourage great candidates to take on these essential leadership roles.”

The report follows a 2020 report prepared by Nous Group in partnership with the Association of Chief Executives, “The CEO in Government”.

“The Chair in Government” was launched at an event in London on 12 July.

Download full paper

Published on 12 July 2022.

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