Tuesday, 25 November 2008

The summit and Action Plans

So the week began early - at 6.00am Monday. Not sure quite why Stuart Etherington called our Recession Summit for a 8.00 am start? To emphasise the serious purpose I guess though Stuart is not normally a man of Puritan streak!

Still - a productive event. I think if I was honest I was hoping for some actual announcements of money but the fact that the PBR was to be later that day made it unlikely. But Kevin Brennan, our Third Sector Minister, came and co-chaired and did announce an action plan for the sector to deal with the recession. This was welcome news and, as I said to Alison Benjamin of The Guardian, no point in them launching an action plan that has no actions.

So I am optimistic. As I said at the Summit, we enter this recession as a much larger and stronger sector. We have a better relationship with Government. We can expect support and we must get that from an action plan. ACEVO has been promoting an action plan and already fed in its ideas. My previous blog sets those out. We asked members what were their priorities for action and they went for:-

- payment by statutory bodies for third sector services within 10 days, as offered by the government to SMEs.

- Reform of VAT, allowing charities to recover more of what is currently irrecoverable VAT. Irrecoverable VAT currently costs the sector £500-600 million a year.

- Reform of Gift Aid. Currently around £700 million goes unclaimed as a result of the flawed system.

- The establishment of a Social Investment Bank to kickstart more investment into the sector

- Support for the difficulties many third sector organisations will have with their pension schemes

- A Thriving Local Third Sector Fund to enable local authorities to invest in securing their National Indicator 7 target of a ‘thriving third sector’.

The contributions at the Summit were good and there was a strong sense of united purpose. A feeling that in trouble we need to pool ideas and get action from Government but that also means us all using our own channels and media outlets to push the message. I did an interview on LBS in the morning just before the Chancellor came on. I made clear the demands we have on him!

I know that members are increasingly saying to me that if Government can act so swiftly for small business, why not for us? It's a fair point. We have called for an emergency package of £500m and it is needed. Small business have been much more successful in demanding, and getting money out of Government. You would have thought we would have more clout than small business. But apparently not.

So we wait and see. And still no news on Icelandic bank deposits. What is going on? I know there are other priorities but we need to know what is being planned.

On the wider front of the sector itself we need to think how we as CEOs plan for recession. Reshaping budgets and business plans and seeking new opportunities. Kevin Brennan, MP, made the point at the Summit that this is a time for innovation. He is right. This is a sector that can be great at innovative ways round problems. But we also need to consider issues like mergers and acquisitions,m alliances and partnerships. So we will also need to look to organisations like Capacity Builders and futurebuilders to grow capacity and. Infrastructure in the sector.

I am on my way to the Board Meeting of FBE. We are looking at ways to support market shaping and helping third sector bodies up scale. Its essential. And the office of the third sector will want to encourage those organisations to help support this process.

We are due to have a joint meeting of the two Boards when the new CEO of Capacity Builders takes up his post. I am meeting him soon to talk about what we can do together - combining the capital funds of FBE with revenue from CB in packages to support merger and partnership.

And to lighter matters. The church Bazaar on Saturday. I was in charge of the book stall and had roped in my nephew Alexander to help. Now in Charlbury we have an eclectic mix of books, ranging from trash to high brow and bizarre. Of course running the stall you get first look! And one of the privileges of volunteering is a unique access to the bric a brac and cakes.

The book pricing policy follows a vague plan. Trash cheap and hardbacks and interesting books more. And I operate a social justice policy so the cut of ones jib is vital in determining prices. Pensioners get their Mills and Boon at knock down. And as someone says to me taking away their large Maeve Binchy "you get a lot of words for 30p". Indeed. I pick up some gems. A 30s book entitled "Foreigners". I think it would not be published nowadays containing as it does outrageous statements about the French, Australians etc. But a period piece from a time when they really knew how to do recession! I missed the letters and journals of Byron - going for an amazing £2 but got a folio edition of the "Father Brown" stories and an old guide to Oxfordshire.

And not forgetting a grand rum pot I intend to use for the fruit in next year's Christmas cake. It was, of course, "Stir up Sunday" - the last Sunday of the church year when traditionally Christmas cakes and puddings are made. I remember the tradition from the distant age that was my youth - I used to stir in the silver sixpences. The term comes from the collect for the day from The Book of Common Prayer which begins "Stir up O Lord".

It's a message to Government methinks as they decide on the action plan.


Anonymous said...

If EVER government acts as if the third sector is more important then the small business sector we will know things have gone pear shaped. The small business sector creates jobs and value. It pays most of the taxes which are used to pay for the third sector. The third sector may provide an efficient and effective means for using resources to support the socially excluded - but someone has to create the value in the first place - and that is the small business sector.

critical friend said...

So what happened to Future builders revenue grant funds? You've just launched a grant fund, now you need capacity builders to bail you out!

Stephen Bubb said...

what an odd comment from prog manager...did you not know that the broad third sector employs 1.5m people. Actually our sector creates jobs and value too . And arguably a very good way of stimulating growth would be to channel more money into the sector.

and as for critical friend on FBE , we do not need Cb to bail us out . I am suggesting we pool resources ....actually , as you should know FBE is a capital fund . We invest capital , not make grants. Where we make any grants it is small scale and only to ensure we can then make more investments .

Anonymous said...

I am delighted that the third sector employs 1.5m people.
So Stephen, lets try to stimulate the economy by pumping more money into the third sector. Where is the money to come from? Who is going to create it?
My point is that the salaries for those jobs are paid for by taxation on activities in the 'for profit' sector (or through increasing government debt).
Either way if you are seriously saying that we could pull ourselves out of recession by expanding employment in the third sector as the 'for profit' sector contracts...
Of course the third sector creates value. I work in the sector a lot, both professionally and as a volunteer, and am very well aware of what it achieves.
However the third sector does not generate sufficient income from the market place (ie it is not sufficiently valued in the market place) to cover the full costs of its activities. It bridges the funding gap by using volunteers and subsidies from the public sector and increasingly strives to generate revenue from other enterprise activity usually labelled 'social'.
I am a massive fan of the third sector. I just don't think it is third sector good;private sector bad. I am also woried when the htrid sector looks to be the service delveiry arm of choice for government policy implementation. Few people are motivated to join the third sector by a burning desire to become an agent of the state - and this is what we are in danger of turning many of them into.

Stephen Bubb said...

Yes , an interesting point , but in terms of keynesian economics if you put more money into circulation through creating more jobs and activity in the third sector then you create a multiplier effect which creates more jobs , economic activity and therefore wealth. So of course he advocated road building. My point is that one could both create more economic activity through putting money into the sector but also add social capital and improve the lot of those who will suffer ,particularly in a recession, by this action .