Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Bathing and the Treasury.

By the end of Tuesday I was pooped. Due to go to a reception with Dame Tessa Jowell I bailed out and went home. Had a long soak in the bath listening to Dvorak's 9 the live from the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester.

But I needed to gear up for a joust at HMT in the morning. A meeting with the Economic Secretary, Sajid Javid MP…a set of thousands from the sector (I sometimes wonder if Treasury officials do this in the hope we will all be discordant voices, certainly it was am interesting mix of people!). But we were on the same page so that foiled that desire. It was a mix of the macro and micro. I made clear that as far as charity CEOs were concerned the big issue is the spending review. I said whatever view one took on spending cuts if the Government continue to cut but fail to reform the way we deliver services we are courting disaster. Already members are pointing to the damage done to vulnerable people and communities by things like welfare and disability cuts. I said the need for public service refrom is as strong as ever and the Government were not pushing this issue enough. They had taken foot off the pedal, yet by using the sector they could both provide better people focused delivery and in a more cost effective way.

I enjoyed the more radical approach of our friends from SCVO. The very talented Ruchir Shah, Head of Policy in Scotland had a very cogent and articulate argument against current Government economic policies. He was supported by Katherine Trebeck from Oxfam Scotland and the HumanKind Index, who argued for a more radical approach to economic policy. Feisty and pointed; they made a strong case for the importance of our sector even though you could tell the Minister was not exactly agreeing!

Though I must say I came away thinking Sajid is a force to be reckoned with. So, someone who is going far. Good intellect and strong engagement with us. He is going up that greasy pole I predict. Hope he heard what we were saying!

We talked about gift aid, small donations, rate relief and attacked the anal retentive HMRC who regard our sector as a hotbed of fraud and malcontent. I also attacked the Treasury for their failure to understand the economic power of our sector.

And as if to underline my concerns I read the story about Shelter today:

“Shelter has said it is likely to close the eight branches that are under threat as a result of severe cuts to legal aid funding in England.

The homelessness charity recently opened a consultation with staff to examine options for the future in light of the huge funding hole it is facing once the government’s cuts take effect. Shelter employs around 150 people under its legal services contracts and the funding cuts will reduce its legal aid funding for face-to-face advice services by around 50 per cent.”

I saw Campbell Robb , Shelter's dedicated CEO, in Manchester. He was deeply fed up that the work they do to support homeless people is being curtailed even though homelessness is rising. A sign of problems to come. The changes to housing benefit. Introducing universal credit at a time of major cuts , recession and rocketing rents ISA recipe for social injustice and real hardship in communities battered by the longest recession the country has faced for centuries.

As homelessness rises we need to ensure more support and use of our sector, not less !

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