Monday, 15 October 2012

Harvest Festival and Aldershot

Harvest Festival and Aldershot

"We plough the fields and scatter,

The good seed on the ground,

And it is fed and watered,

By God's Almighty hand"

I remember the harvest hymn from childhood in a Kent village and good to hear it again in Charlbury at the weekend. It was Harvest Festival in a village where there are still farmers ploughing and scattering seed, so the Church was decorated with sheaves of corn. Difficult to have a harvest festival in Brixton I feel. Or indeed Aldershot where I was on Friday.

I was meeting the Surrey charity CEO group. A good meeting which demonstrated to me the grit and determination of our sector's Leaders in the face of much trouble. Arranged by old friend Jonathan Powell of Queen Elizabeth’s Foundation for Disabled People. I talked about the graph of doom facing local councils but the opportunity that might give to sector leaders to argue for different approaches to delivery.

I was struck by a notable absence of whinging from the Surrey CEOs, even though they have much to whinge about. We talked about the importance of delivery but also challenging those in Councils and speaking truth to power. It was a shame to hear that some councils in Surrey have a rather backward view on the role of the sector: if you deliver our services don't you dare criticise us. I heard that one backward procurement officer in Surrey CC had been threatening on "keeping quiet" if you want the contract.

I have always believed our strength comes from our power to speak up for our beneficiaries. We get involved in delivering services because we do it better; not because we aim to turn a penny. So Councils who don't understand that fundamental role should be ashamed of themselves. Our ability to speak out is what differentiates us from the A4Es and Capitas of this world.

Its always cheering to hear from CEOs at the front line; getting on with the job because they are driven by the mission of their organisations and determined, whatever the challenges, they will overcome. They will carry on ploughing their fields despite the stones thrown their way!

And finally some photo from Charlbury on a glorious autumnal harvest walk to the Pub with the Hound for my usual Sunday lunch!

Stephen Bubb