Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Growth not cuts!

That was the strong message of Will Hutton at our ACEVO Learning With Leaders lunch yesterday at CCLA . A fine performance from Will; Principal of Herford, author, economist and polemicist; he poured scorn on the Government's economic policies. He said it was ludicrous not to use public debt as an economic tool to drive growth; particularly when debt is the cheapest it has been for Government for 300 years. He castigated business for its failure to innovate and lamented the UK's failure to provide a climate that drives innovation.

I questioned him why he thought there is such a consensus around the need to cut debt. I must say there does seem to be growing evidence that driving down public spending in a major recession is having seriously damaging effects, particularly on the social fabric. He argued that we should be part of the organisations demanding a change of tack and warning of social upset and disruption in communities. .

A stimulating talk. I like Will. All power to his arm; we need alternative voices.

Then it was a mad dash back to the office before heading to the Commons for dinner in honour of Harriet Baldwin MP , who has been my Vice Chair of the Social Investment Business and who chairs the Futurebuilders Investment Committee with firmness and conviction. She is very proud of the Futurebuiders record- with a failure rate on our loans at 1.5%. That is down to clear decisions on who to make loans too, but also an engaged investor approach which supports and helps change organisations in trouble.

Harriet is now PPS to Mark Hoban MP, the Employment Minister, so we had a chat about the Work Programme! A fine dinner in the Churchill Room in the Commons ; probably a little too fine as I managed to forget my gym bag as I dashed for home!

Indeed I could probably have stopped there as I was back in the Commons at 9am to appear before the majesty of the Commons Public Administration Select Committee who are reviewing the operation of Charity Law and the recommendations of Lord Hodgson. I was appearing with Messrs Irvin and Etherington and Cath Lee of the small charities coalition (who is also one of my trustees!).

A few sparky moments courtesy of Charlie Elphicke MP who clearly decided he would press some of my buttons (so to speak!) on issues like charity campaigning; of which I heartily approve and encourage! I do however have to admit to rather liking the smart and engaging Elphicke who had prepared his ground well by quoting from War on Want! We had a fun exchange on "toffs" ; me on public schools and the Chair on my members! And obviously a feisty exchange on trustee pay where I made a brilliant defence of Hodgson (he says modestly) against more conservative views. I was however in a minority , though with history on my side. Probably.

I was able to draw on ACEVO's survey of its members to make the point that we are not arguing that all trustees should be paid but that those charities that believe there is a case for payment should not be prevented from doing so!

And back to the office finally to recover.

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