Wednesday 18 June 2008

" Not so much a tie , more a work of art "

As I observed to Nick Herbert MP , who is the Tory front bench spokesperson with the Justice portfolio and who was admiring the particularly fine Italian designer tie I was wearing today . Indeed he thought it was not so much art but an "installation " . It was a rather fine line that I used on the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions , who I saw later in the evening and who was comparing his own somewhat dismal offering unfavourably with mine.

I had a meeting at Portcullis House with Nick Herbert to talk about Tory plans on prison and probation . I have not met Nick before and I was extremely impressed . Very bright and perceptive , with a clear vision of how the system has to change to put rehabilitation at the heart of plans to reduce crime . He was clear that the third sector has to play a larger role both in prisons and in working with ex offenders . I like his plans on establishing prison trusts and devolving powers down from national and regional control to the level of the prison and then incentivize Prison Governors on not only how they work on rehabilitating prisoners but also in keeping them from re-offending when they are released.

I liked Nick ; and came away thinking that these proposals can work and that the sector should work with Nick to ensure the commissioning framework to implement these plans works. Acevo will now bring together key members to look at how we can help ensure effective sector engagement . I am afraid that the Government are making a pigs ear of current plans for probation reform . They pushed through a radical new Bill to reform the offender management system and since its passage have simply caved in to the vested interests who oppose any attempt to deliver more services through the third sector . They even had a target of 10% external delivery and this has simply been dropped. Without consultation . And although acevo has protested in the strongest possible terms , nothing is happening . I wrote to Jack Straw asking for a meeting with leading members and he hasn't even bothered to reply. acevo played a big role in getting the NOMS Bill through . Members are left feeling they have been betrayed. So Nick , go for it .

Greg Clark MP, the Tory third sector spokesperson also joined us at the end of the meeting - it is a mark of how seriously the sector is taken now that some of the brightest and best of the Party are engaged with us in looking at how the third sector can play a bigger role in social and economic regeneration .

I then move on to another rising political star ; James Purnell MP, who is giving a speech on welfare reform . I have been so engaged with the Tories that I arrive late and have to stand by the wall ; but I arrive just in time for his reference to the third sector and how we have to be better involved in reform . He spots me and mentions how we both launched the DWP - third sector task force in Nottingham last week . What an entrance . What timing.

But in case you think it's been a lazy day chatting to politicians I have also managed a meeting with my acevo Director's Group and a staff meeting , a reception in the Lords for the Commission on Social Care , lunch with one of my members ; Fiona Blacke , who runs the National Youth Agency ,and a talk to the International Parliamentary Association in Westminster Hall . The later was interesting as I gave a panegyric in praise of civil society , the decline in respect for political process and the growth in our sector.And I was thoroughly shameless ; when a member of the legislature in Australia asked me about their own plans for sector engagement and what my tips were I told her I had been discussing the need for a Compact with Kevin Rudd the Australian Prime Minister who had assured me they were about to introduce one there . I said it needed to have statutory force. Such name dropping is just too delicious. And entirely effective.

To wrap off an interesting day I went off to dinner with Sir Rodney Brooke , who Chairs the Social Care inspectorate and we have an enormously agreeable meal at Bentley's the famous fish restaurant in Piccadilly. I won't describe the menu as I know this will only raise questions about my commitment to social justice , but suffice to say it met the high standards that readers have come to expect of Bubb . And I had earned it .


Anonymous said...

Hi Stephen,

Me (progmanager) again! Your touching faith in bright and perceptive shadow ministers with clear visions is as refreshing as it is misguided.

One of the problems with HMPS (as with so much of the public sector) is that they suffer from a never ending treadmill of young bright visionaries who then get bogged down by the civil service which collectively manages to emasculate any visionary reform proposals - leading to more of the same.

It is this approach that believes that transformational change will come from bright young visionary politicians, put into practice by a vibrant and vigorous civil service; while all we citizens (hah!) need to do is to vote once every few years and sit and complain the rest of the time - THAT IS THE PROBLEM!

I think it was Einstein who said something about problems not being solved at the levels at which they were created.

The third sector has the potential to engage communities and citizens in a serious transformational process that starts from the bottom up - but looks like blowing the opportunity because so much of its leadership appears to be obsessed with playing the game of existing power and authority structures than really working to create something transformational.

Glad you managed a trip to Bentleys. Just rewards I would say!

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