Thursday, 23 October 2008

Select Committees, Tories ,Members and well being

Shocking story on "Today" this morning . Apparently " blogging is so 2004 " . Its going to go out of fashion . Typical , just as I get into it , the fashion moves on . But I refuse to believe this and will continue unabated;the sector needs its bloggers.

I was looking for bankers and cardboard boxes on Monday . It was the Third Sector Charity Awards in Canary Wharf and as far as I could see no visible signs of distress . Indeed I got soaked by a passing Aston Martin as I made my way to Barclays Bank . Hope he was on the way to the receivers , I uncharitably thought.

The Awards was a fun event . Barclays were rolling out the champagne and I have to admit I drank more than perhaps was advisable for a Monday evening . But it was a triumph for acevo members. I had made 3 nominations ; Clare Tickell for most admired CEO, Bob Reitemier for most admired charity ( the Children's Society ) and Matthew Thompson ( London recycling )for most innovative charity . They are all top class third sector leaders . And they all won . As they should . So there was lots to celebrate . Nick Hurd MP ; the new Tory third sector spokesman turned up so I took advantage and introduced him to a range of acevo members . I travelled back on the tube in a merry mood with the chair of the Charity Commission , the charming Dame Suzi . I think we had put the sector to rights by the time I changed to the Northern Line.

Sticking to the Tory theme, Nick came to speak at one of our splendid acevo dinners at RBS on Wednesday. RBS are very generous hosts and we dine in one of their Board room dining suites. Hard times may be upon us but standards are maintained . The white Meursault Premier Cru is magnificent . Nick turns up late as he was voting at the Commons and by the time he had arrived the 30 or so acevo Chief Executives were in fine fettle ,mellow and expansive and thoroughly relaxed . Nick gave a great speech about his priorities and thoughts on the sector's role .It went down very well indeed . As I have blogged before , this guy is going far and you read it here first! I had also been chatting to George Eustace , the Tory's Director of External Affairs in the lunch break at the annual confernece of Social Enterprise London ( I was chairing a Panel session) . It is clear that the Conservatives do see a major role for the third sector if they win the election . How this will change with the trappings of power remains to be seen , but the intentions seem firm and it is our role to encourage them . Now the new Third Sector Minister Kevin Brennan must show his mettle by delivering a deal on Icelandic deposits and a package of support for the sector to face the crisis . Stuart Etherington , John Low and I will be seeing him next week to ram home this message .I agreed our general line with Stuart on Monday . We will both be pushing hard on behalf of the sector.

I also met the administrator for the Icelandic Kaupthing Bank (from Ernst and Young) this week . It is clear from my discussions with him that the process of liquidation of the Icelandic banks will be lengthy and protracted .it is also not possible for them to give a particular priority for charities. This adds urgency to our demand of Government that a guarantee is given . I would argue that we should get priority above local councils as they wont go bust , but our charities need theitr reserves . I have written to the Local Government Association asking for a meeting . Local Councils have a clear duty to protect the sector at a local level . In the past , when times are hard , they cut grants to the sector. This must not happen now . We talk about this with Nick Hurd ;he completely understands the need for Tory councils to set an example for what a Conservative Government might do . Their actions could undermine their good intentions to us , so he is thinking about how we can work together on this . We talk about how we might discuss this further. Members would very much welcome that so we will do so .

Arts and Heritage are very much needed at the present . Our country is much improved by the presence of so much world class creative industry . ACEVO has a good number of Chief Executives from arts and heritage organisations . They are a fantastic bunch and we have a special interest group where the CEOs get together .I go to meet them on Tuesday and we have an interesting discussion about how much this sector contributes to "well being " . So we must resist the temptation to cut back on our arts spending in a recession . A few years back ACEVO produced a pamphlet on happiness and well being by the brainy Nick Aldridge , former Deputy here at acevo and now CEO of Mission Fish , the ebay charity.

To purchase our Wellbeing, happiness and third sector leadership publication click here

And I shall end with my appearance in front of the august Commons Select Committee for Work and Pensions . They are reviewing the DWP commissioning strategy . I am giving evidence on behalf of the Third Sector . This is the third time I have appeared before a Select Committee . It was somewhat nerve racking and i woke up in the night thinking of my lines. In fact it went rather well and I soon got into the swing of things . I think they liked my description of DWP as an old fashioned state monopoly run on Stalinist lines , though as one of the MPs quipped Stalin had a rather good record on cutting unemployment . I lavished praise on James Pyrnell and the Right to Bid . I pointed out that Full Cost recovery , the DWP Code of Practice were ACEVO invention and that James had launched his Right to Bid guidance at an ACEVO lecture. I suggested that the problem with the implementation of the new scheme will lie in the difficulty of marrying the notion of innovation to an anally retentive , risk averse bureaucracy .

And at the end the Chair ,Terry Rooney MP, said that " the record would certainly show you advocated well for the Third sector".

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