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Wednesday, 3 October 2012

What are public appointments?

A public appointment is an appointment to the board of a public body or to a government committee. Around 18,500 men and women hold a public appointment. Find out more about public bodies and public appointments, about what appointees do and about the benefits of holding a public appointment.

What are public bodies?

There are over 1,200 public bodies across the UK delivering important and essential public services. This includes large public bodies managed by boards of directors and small, advisory committees made up of lay members, experts and specialists. Examples of public bodies include:

  • health authorities, NHS trusts and primary care trusts
  • national museums and galleries, including the British Museum, the Natural History Museum, the Tate and the National Gallery
  • key regulatory bodies such as the Competition Commission, the Environment Agency, the Equalities and Human Rights Commission and the Health and Safety Executive
  • expert, advisory bodies such as the Low Pay Commission, the Committee on Standards in Public Life and the House of Lords Appointments Commission
  • a number of specialist scientific and technical committees

A list of public bodies is published annually by the Cabinet Office. View the latest Cabinet Office report.

What does a public appointee do?

A public appointment is an appointment to the board of a public body or to a government committee.

The three main functions of a board are:

  • to provide direction and leadership - this includes setting the organisation’s strategy, agreeing  business plans to deliver the strategy and recruiting key staff
  • to hold senior staff to account - this includes holding managers to account on how the body is managed, how business plans are delivered and how the budget is spent
  • to represent the work and views of the body - this might be to ministers, Parliament, key stakeholders and the wider public

Those appointed to government committees or advisory bodies provide independent, expert advice to government departments and ministers on specific issues.

What do public appointments offer?

A public appointment gives you a chance to:

  • give something back and contribute your expertise to help the community and influence decisions that affect everyone's lives
  • meet people from all walks of life who also want to make a difference
  • develop your career, gain board experience and boost your skills
  • return from a career break or maternity leave

Who can apply for public appointments?

The Seven Principles of Public Life

  • selflessness
  • integrity
  • objectivity
  • accountability
  • openness
  • honesty
  • leadership

People who hold public appointments come from all backgrounds, every walk of life and every part of the UK.

You need to show that you have the ability to carry out the role. The skills and experience needed will vary from post to post but, in general, you will need to show:

  • commitment to devote the time to prepare and take part in the work of the body
  • courage to ask questions that no one else has asked or ask why things are being done a certain way
  • confidence to speak up and express your point of view
  • common sense to be able to assess the impact of decisions on all sections of the community and bring an independent view to the debate
  • committee experience to take part and influence the actions and decision-making of a formal board or committee
  • clear thinking to assess a situation quickly, accurately and even-handedly

You will also need to understand and accept the Seven Principles of Public Life (see the box above) and work to the highest personal and professional standards.

To read about people who hold public appointments, follow the 'case studies' link below.

To find out how to apply for a public appointment, follow the 'applying for a public appointment' link below.

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