THE board of Malvern Hills Conservators is to be recommended to appoint an external, independent chairman to conduct the inquiry into the St Ann’s Well cafe affair.

The recommendation comes from the inquiry committee set up by the Conservators earlier this year to examine the matter.

Mike Morgan, Beverley Nielsen, Gwyneth Rees, Jennie Kelly and David Watkins met yesterday evening (Monday, September 26) and agreed it would be difficult for a committee comprised of board members to conduct the “open and transparent” inquiry that Conservators chairman Clive Smith has called for.

Mrs Nielsen said: “Any gathering of members of this board is going to be, to some degree, compromised and conflicted. My concern is that internal inquiries are by their very nature compromised.”

The committee agreed unanimously to return to the board with a recommendation that an external chairman be appointed to organise and run the inquiry.

It will put forward the suggestion that any member of the Worcestershire County Council standards board over the last 10 years would be considered a suitable candidate for the position. The committee’s preference would be for the inquiry to include representation from the Charities Commission.

Mike Morgan, who was elected as chairman of the committee at the start of the meeting, said that there was likely to be a cost implication whoever the board chose to appoint.

The next meeting of the Conservators board will be in November, after the organisation’s elections on Thursday, October 27.

St Ann’s Well cafe tenant John Redman said he was “equal parts pleased and disappointed” with the outcome.

“The committee clearly recognised that no-one from the board should be involved with the investigation, and that is a big step forward,” he said.

He added that he was disappointed the matter would not be resolved before the forthcoming elections.