Friday 18 January 2013

ACEVO AGM and the Big Offer

It’s that time again for ACEVO’s Annual General Meeting, where we informed our members of our previous and future activities. Last night was also a chance for our members to swap their stories and share their experiences as sector Leaders since the coalition.

With a general election soon upon us and with all the recent razzmatazz around the coalition's mid-term review I was reminded of the heady rhetoric of the pre-election days and the serious wooing of our charity sector by all the political parties.

Oliver Letwin MP was our guest speaker during last night’s Parliamentary reception so I took the chance to remind him that back in 2010 ACEVO had organised our "Conservative Summit" with him, soon to be Chancellor George Osborne, nine future Cabinet Ministers and ACEVO charity leaders.

During the summit the conservatives talked about their plans for the sector and how crucial we were to reforming and modernising public services. So, I made them my "Big Offer”; stating that as a large and powerful sector we were ready to help transform public services and build stronger communities. I also pointed out that the third sector is a broad sector that is increasingly crucial to both the economy and society with an annual turnover of £120 billion and employing 1.3m people.

Consequently that “Big Offer" is still open and has no expiry date on it! Right across public services, charities and social enterprises have so much more to offer. Whether that is delivering more citizen focused public services or speaking up for communities, we need Government to realise what we can offer.

There is much frustration amongst charity leaders in the face of yet more cuts, increasing demand for our services and lower giving. Across health and social care, rehabilitation, children's and old people's services and employment the charity role must be expanded.

Oliver Letwin MP was generous in his response and highlighted the current plans for a rehabilitation revolution and how he does not see how this can be achieved without the close involvement of our sector. And he told me to carry on arguing our corner, even when that makes them angry, because that's my job!

Times are tough. But as I said to Oliver, charity leaders are resilient and resourceful. As Oliver Wendel Holmes said, "The thing is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving. We must sail sometimes with the wind and sometimes against it, but we must sail and not drift, nor lie at anchor.”

So we shall see what will happen in the next two years.

I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate CEO at Contact a family Srabani Sen and CEO at RNIB Lesley-Anne Alexander as they have been re-elected as trustees to ACEVO’s board. I would also like to welcome CEO of NAVCA Joe Irvin who has been elected to replace Cath Lee. I’m looking forward to working with Joe building on the strengths of national and local charities.

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