Friday, 5 September 2008

Lunch with Nick Clegg, Brekkie with the LSC, and the Balkans

In Sheffield for an acevo north lunch with Nick Clegg. An engaging and passionate advocate for the Lib Dems. He talked about the power of voluntary and community action. He questioned if Governments were fully realising and using our potential. He warned of the need not to loose our stroppy and cynical attitude to politicians! Too right Nick!

He pays generous tribute to Ed Miliband, and talks of the importance of the role of organisations like acevo in promoting sector leadership. Perhaps his most telling point was his fierce attack on the overtly right wing policies of new Labour on crime. He said it was a scandal that we have the highest re-offending rates for prisoners in the Western world. He pointed out that for kids who end up in detention for 90 days the re-offending rate is over 90%. Perhaps our government should think a little harder before more tough talk on youth crime? He is right on this. A Government that was elected to be tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime have simply forgotten the later in the desire to promote the former. And we are all paying the price in higher crime.

That is why it is such brilliant news that charities like NACRO, Rainer and Turning Point are bidding with the private sector to win contracts to run prisons. What I find incomprehensible is that Government is about to spend huge sums on more prisons when actually that money should be poured into the third sector to work on prevention and rehabilitation. But the real picture is charities scrimp and save, are awarded short term contracts, sometimes not even at full cost and so our potential is stifled. Clegg is right. Government policy on crime has been a failure. Put the sector at the heart of the answer and stop pandering to the Mail and reactionary forces in probation and prisons.

I guess if there was a criticism of Clegg it was that we heard little coherent policy on the sector. I'm not sure they have a thought through policy, and unlike the other two parties are light on what they would do for the sector. This despite the long and rich Liberal tradition of support for communities and voluntary action.

I reminded him as he left that Lord Rennard, the General Secretary of the Lib Dems, is a one time acevo member and has been on a number of acevo courses. After all political parties are themselves large voluntary organisations!

Had breakfast this week with Chris Banks, Chair of the Learning and Skills Council. He is also a non-Exec on the Futurebuilders Board. He has had a stunning career in industry and a passion for driving up the skills of our UK workforce. The third sector has had a rocky relationship with the LSC but it is vital for a sector that employs 1.5 million people and with an army of volunteers that we work closely with them. We discuss how Train to Gain works. We may do some work in acevo on this.

We also talk about how we can ensure effective working between Futurebuilders and LSC on capital support for skills development.

And now to the Balkans! The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has awarded Euclid Network a major grant to support the development of civil society and third sector leaders in Montenegro, Kosovo and Albania in an 18 month project. Euclid Network is currently looking for organisations to host job shadowers as part of the project. This is a fantastic opportunity for third sector leaders in the UK to work with two of the world’s newest countries. If you are interested in participating please contact Ben Rattenbury, Euclid Network’s Projects Officer, at

No comments: