Wednesday 14 May 2008

your Voice

Just back from the " your voice " event which Gordon Brown and a whole posse of Cabinet members held at the Bermondsey Community Centre. Today he outlined his plans for what should be in the Queens Speech and opened it up for consultation . Having outlined his plans in Parliament he then came out for the first in a whole series of public meetings around the country to consult people on what they think should be in the Queens Speech.
So there was a mixture of local people and community activists from Bermondsey ( I was on a table with people from the famous Aylesbury Estate.) There were also a sprinkling of Third sector national folk , so as well as myself on behalf of acevo ,there was Clare Tickell from NCH, Jon Bland from Social Enterprise, Ben Kernigan from NCVO and Bob Reitemeir from Children's Society - all members of acevo ( even Ben whom I am pleased to say is one of our associate members ).I sat next to Clare and she made a superb contribution on young people. I met her Chair last night and we both agreed that Clare is one of the sector's leading CEOs. NCH is a superb children's charity , providing essential children focused services and acting as a voice for children and young people generally.
One of the key points in the speech ( from GB rather than the Queen ) was the need for public swervice reform to go deeper and broader.he spoke of the need for more " diversity of supply " and how public services must be " shaped by you the user " . its absolutly the right message. Public services must be reformed and our third sector role as advocate and voice for citizens and communities and our role in providing citizen focused services is crucial to radical reform . He knows that and tomorrow I will be talking to Ed Miliband about how we can drive that agenda forward in a way that is more than just rhetoric.Charities and community enterprise is the key to success . just give us the tools to do it Gordon.
It is easy to be cynical about such Government run consultation exercises , and the elaborate attempt to get down and dirty in a community centre but these are good opportunities to fly the flag for community and citizen empowerment.
And I was so chuffed to arrive at the Centre to be warmly greeted by an old guy who remembers me from my days as a well known Lambeth we are talking the 80s here so anyone who remembers this must be a star. I remind my staff they are so lucky to have a working class hero as their boss but they look confused .
Hazel Blears , Jacqui Smith, Ed Balls, Harriet Harman and Alan Johnston are all there too.Hazel as always looks chirpy. I had a chat afterwards and as it was her birthday had not the heart to say I was not at all sure on her idea ( as heard on the morning's Today programme )about holding Cabinet Meetings in Town Halls! )Somehow I think its the quality of the decision that matters not the venue for the decision making , but hey why not!
I'm afraid Gordon does not look exactly care free but it was good to be able to make the point to him that the Government has made strong advances on the third sector , even if more remains to be done.

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