Thursday, 5 March 2009

Public Services but no sandwiches

A meeting of the Public Services Forum today . This is a forum between the trades unions , employers , third sector and Government . It is Chaired by Tom Watson MP , Cabinet Office Minister and we meet in the Cabinet Office .

Its at 1pm so I arrive early in search of the usual lavish Government hospitality ; you know the sort of thing , curled sandwiches and grease encrusted sausages . But no lunch , not even a paltry crisp . Times are hard . I follow Dave Prentis in and am shown into a room where I discover I am in the trades union pre meeting . I offer to stay . But no . I make my way to the main meeting room and walk in , only to find I am in the pre meeting for Government officials . I am quickly ushered out by kindly civil servant who offers me the consolation of a cup of tea and a biscuit . No biscuit I say virtuously; it's Lent ! So there you go , the third sector marginalised yet again . I sit morosely in a corner.

But at least when I do get allowed into the room I can correct an obvious mistake in the seating plan . They had placed my name plate on the second row. Anxious not to get the civil servant into trouble who had made this mistake I removed it and placed it in front row , opposite the Minister , where clearly it ought to have been . It also has the advantage that I am in front of the great and effective Liz Atkins from NCVO who is therefore able to pass me notes , should she feel the urge , from her place on the second row.

We have presentations from Tom McNalty MP , the Works Minister , and from Liam Byrne MP. I am able to make interventions that stress the role of the third sector in supporting the victims of recession and also in creating the jobs of the future , the jobs that we need in the new growth industries. These Fora are always good opportunities to showcase the work of our sector and our role in public service reform . ACEVO is keen to promote how we can work with Government at central and local level to overcome the social tensions of a recession , but the real advance will be in how we promote the recovery . All in the lecture .

And now its off to my Brother Nick's for an evening at Kew Gardens , in the marvellous Conservatory and their brilliant collection of orchids. And there will not be a curled sandwich in sight.

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