Drinkaware announces 'radical' changes to address transparency concerns

By John Harrington

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Board of directors

The new board will be smaller and appoint trustees through an 'open recruitment process'
The new board will be smaller and appoint trustees through an 'open recruitment process'
Drinkaware, the industry-funded alcohol awareness charity, has announced “radical” changes to its governance to address concerns that it lacks transparency and independence from the industry.

Sir Leigh Lewis, former Permanent Secretary at the Department for Work and Pensions, has been named as its new chair together with three new trustees to replace those retiring. This includes Penny Newman OBE, former chief executive of the Jamie Oliver Foundation who also headed fair-trade drink company Cafedirect.

Rigorous research

An audit into Drinkaware published last year recognised its progress in raising awareness of alcohol harm but recommended a greater focus on ensuring the work of the charity is rigorously researched and evidence-based, with open reporting of outcomes; more collaborative partnership with others in the sector trying to reduce alcohol harm; and a review of governance arrangements to address perceptions in some quarters of a lack of independence from the alcohol industry.

Trustees have now approved the “radical” changes.

Changes

The new board will be smaller, down from 13 to between nine and 11. There will no longer be quotas to have five industry figures and five “alcohol professionals”; instead, the board will appoint trustees through an “open recruitment process based solely on their ability to meet the needs of the organisation”.

Drinkaware said other changes are being made to ensure transparency, including publication of board minutes, the annual report of the independent Medical Advisory Panel and details of trustees’ other interests.

The three new trustees are Penny Newman, Vicki Nobles and Timothy Walker, will join Sir Leigh Lewis on the board from 5 February. It is anticipated that further appointments will be made in due course, Drinkaware said.

'Coming of age'

Derek Lewis, outgoing chair of the Trust, said: “The announcement of our formal response to last year’s audit and the major changes in the governance of Drinkaware represents its ‘coming of age’. The new board structure and governance arrangements represent best practice in not-for-profit organisations and will ensure that Drinkaware is equipped to play an increasing role in tackling alcohol harm in the UK.

“We are delighted to welcome Sir Leigh to the Drinkaware Trust. His appointment and those of Penny, Timothy and Vicki announced today, will bring invaluable new talent to the board as it embarks on the next phase of Drinkaware’s development. At the same time our gratitude is due to the four retiring trustees – Carolyn Bradley, Nick Grant, Benet Slay and Dr Michael Wilks. Their support has been critical in establishing Drinkaware as the leading provider of alcohol education in the UK.”

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