Tuesday, 14 October 2008

At Cabinet Office

Meeting this afternoon with the new team at the Cabinet office - Liam Byrne, MP, who is the new Cabinet office minister and Kevin Brennan, MP, the Third sector Minister.

It's a sitting on sofas type of meeting so I know we are going to be getting along fine!

My key message is that we are hurting. Our beneficiaries are hurting and as partners we need to work together sorting it. I phrased it a little more eloquently. Obviously!

I came away clear that this message is understood and there will be action. There was no way they were going to commit to specific money or action but I'm confident we will get action over the coming months. Liam wanted to know what areas and group would be hit particularly and how this might roll out

We had a long discussion on Gift Aid. They quite understand how difficult it is for us when large sums lie unclaimed. If we could crack this we would unlock large sums to support our members. I wouldn't be surprised if they take this up with HMT.

We also talk about service delivery. And how we need to drive forward public service reform and increase the sector role. I know that Liam is a strong believer in the role the sector can play delivering responsive services. He championed this when he was a Health Minister. He was at our key meeting with Blair when we persuaded him to go for a third sector service delivery action plan. The fact is that service delivery will continue to grow. It is an area of opportunity for our sector. I said we would be promoting this to members. Its a fact that in a recession it is more crucial to secure contracts. Grants will be cut back. Foundations will retrench. Local councils will cut their discretionary spending and regrettably that often means their grant programmes. Not good. But a fact of life.

I also urge them to push ahead with establishing a Social Investment Bank. Now that we the people own the banks there should be no problem in disgorging unclaimed assets and putting them to work as a capital injection into the sector through a Social Investment Bank

I'm there with Dr Kyle, my trusty Deputy. He worked in the cabinet Office so wanders around like he owns the place, meeting and greeting old friends and colleagues. I bump into Nick Pierce, who ran ippr and now runs the Policy Unit in No 10. He looks remarkably healthy for someone who must have been in the thick of things.

So slow progress. But I'm more hopeful. Our Ministers are on side; we referred briefly to an article I have written in tomorrow's Guardian. It is deliberately provocative so I gave Minsters a heads up.

Now I'm on the train to Leeds - my Board Strategic Away Day!!

Stephen Bubb

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