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Lords to debate potential lack of chairman at English Heritage

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Growing discontent over the impending vacancy at the top of English Heritage (EH) is set to spill on to the floors of the House of Lords.

Tory culture spokesman William Astor - a hereditary peer formally known as Viscount Astor - is set to ask a question in the Upper Chamber over the failure of the government to appoint a successor to chairman Neil Cossons, who is set to leave his post on 31 March.

MPs and peers are increasingly concerned that there will be a lack of leadership at the heritage quango.

Astor has tabled this question and it will be debated on 21 February. Her Majesty's Government will be asked when it intends to appoint a new chairman of English Heritage.

It is perceived that a failure to appoint a chair will leave EH in no-man's-land at a time of extremely important funding talks.

The refusal to urgently appoint a top-dog at a time when serious negotiations are taking place - over the Comprehensive Spending Review and the Heritage White Paper - has dismayed EH staffers and placed additional pressure on chief executive Simon Thurley.

Tessa Jowell announced earlier this year that she wasn't satisfied with any of the potential Cossons replacements and would readverstise.

A spokesman said at the time: 'The Secretary of State felt that, although the shortlisted candidates were all high-quality individuals, no single candidate quite demonstrated the full range of essential criteria which were published in the role specification.'

by Ed Dorrell

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