Wednesday 9 November 2011

Big Society Bank, Eric books and pensions

An historic day perhaps? The first meeting of the Board of the Big Society Trust, chaired by the legendary Ronnie Cohen on Tuesday. This is a crucial body to drive forward new approaches to capital and asset aquisition by the sector. I'm proud to be there.

Baroness Pitkeithly kindly gave me a lift back to Westminster but hte journey ended in pain when I shut my thumb in the car door! Throbbing I made my way to a meeting of the Ministerial Recovery Group, looking at the aftermath of the riots. But my frind Eric Pickles does not hang around; he finished it in half an hour and I arrived as it finished. Hopeless I know! But then I was in the vicinity for a meet with the new third sector opposition Minister , Gareth Thomas MP. A lively , intelligent and committed guy- destined for higher things if Ed ever makes it!

Any membership body needs to stay in touch with what members need. We have recently done a members' survey. I know these things can be irritating- I get them for all sorts of things- so we offered a prize for completion.

Members that completed the member’s survey were entered into a draw to win a free place at the ACEVO annual conference and dinner. CEO Dean Casswell of Bag Books was drawn as the winner. Bag Books is a great cause. It’s the only organisation in the world that publishes multi-sensory books for people with learning disabilities. The organisation reaches around 18,000 people in the UK with profound and severe learning or those severely affected by Autistic Spectrum Disorder every year. I am looking forward to meeting Dean at the conference. It shows the value of a dynamic national organisation. Its good that ACEVO can promote such national bodies.

And finally pensions! It's been somewhat on my mind as I get older. The sector is hugely disadvantaged by not being able to offer the sort of pensions the public sector provide. I can understand the anger of public servants at the demands they pay more at a time when they face pay freezes and rising living standards. But the reality of many third sector staff retiring on a stakeholder pension is that current conditions are bleak for them acquiring an annuity that will provide any decent pensions for the future. And pensions pose a real issue in TUPE transfers.

There are also important pension reforms for us on the way. Pensions are boring, yes, but the pensions reform, coming into play next year, is really important for members and our sector to know about.

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