Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Down memory lane and into the Sunlight with the Tories

Standing outside my Great Grandmother's house today I was reflecting on how times have changed. As you do when you get older.I had travelled down to Gillingham where many eons ago I had been at Gillingham Grammar School ( I was born not far away in a village on the North Downs ; Wigmore. ) But today I was there to attend the launch of Tory plans by David Cameron. Today I was travelling on an electric train . The very first time I went on the Gillingham to London line it was on a steam train . Can we persuade Boris to bring back steam along with the route master one wonders? I think I will ask David.

Granny Gertrude Bubb was a formidable woman , at least so it seemed to a 8 year old boy . The long dress and coat .The forbidding hat . Gertrude died in 1960 when I was 8 . 46 years sater I am on my way to the launch of the Conservative Party Plans for the Third Sector at the inaptly named ( it is raining ) Sunlight Centre I doubt Granny would understand the term third Sector , but I suspect she would be hugely proud of her first born Great Grandson.

The Tories were having the launch of their Green Paper on the Sector at the aforementioned " Sunlight Centre * ( a former laundry as my Father reminds me ) , a social enterprise on Richmond Rd. It is in the very Parish where my Parents were married in 1952 as I tell Greg Clark MP , who is the Tory spokesperson on the Third Sector . He mentions this in his speech when he launches the plans with David Cameron. I'm flattered ,and even more so when he introduces me as " somewhat of a Guru for the Third Sector. " I always thought that Greg was very perspicacious.

The Green Paper is welcome . It should be as they have clearly been listening to the voices of sector Chief Executives. They make clear the need to reform contracts and commissioning , the desire to sweep away bureaucracy and to give the sector it's head. Of course in this they are reflecting what the current Government are trying to achieve , but who are finding that reality in local authorities and health trusts is very different from the bold rhetoric of Government support for the sector. Perhaps the most inspiring aspect of the plans is their demand that charities be allowed to make profits....though David Cameron eschews that actual word and talks of surplus . But they are right. We should be able to make a surplus ,which we reinvest into the business ; building our capacity and ability to deliver professional services.

acevo has led the charge on funding and contract reform . We invented the term " full cost recovery " to ensure the state paid the full cost of the contracts they have with the third sector . The Government have accepted the concept as policy . But the Tories are going further . They are saying we should be on a par with the private sector in competition and as able to generate profit . This is counter cultural when most people think of the charity sector as all jumble sales and raffles , rather than professional deliverers of citizen focused services. I am quizzed by a journalist from The Times who suggests this is not a proper function of charity, but I hope I convince her a modern dynamic third sector is entitled to a proper return for good services delivered.

I ask David Cameron about their commitment to third sector service delivery .Their Green Paper says they support more service delivery through the sector but is light on specifics . So what , I ask, is their plan to achieve this ? He says long term contracts and effective commissioning . After the launch I talk to Francis Maude who says they intend to do more work on contract and commissioning reform . I pledge acevo support for this work . They are right to identify this as a major stumbling block to change and this is a message I have been hammering away on with Government.

The truth is the Green Paper does not contain many surprises but the fact that they have heard our concerns and want to take action is a step to progress. We now have to ensure they deliver the change to which they have committed. Actions always speak louder than words. So policies have to be grounded in practicalities before change become real.It is our job to ensure that happens . So acevo will carry on the push for better funding . longer term contracts and public service reform with Government and Opposition .

And as I remind a journalist if they are serious on profit I expect to see the many Tory Local authorities starting implementing this for their third sector clients. We shall see . I tell my folk back in the office we should conduct a survey of Tory authorities in a years time to gauge progress.

They also say they will consult on making the Compact statutory . Hooray . It can now only be a matter of time before the Government and the Compact Commissioner announce this reform . Indeed I understand it was only conventions that stopped the Tories actually saying they would make it statutory .But this is now just a question of how to do it , not whether it is a good thing . And about time too. Another notch on the acevo bedpost , if I can be so vulgar.

We are preparing for our Chief Executive Summit next week Alan Milburn MP and former Health Secretary is to speak. We have been talking to him about what the sector needs and he is up to a major speech on the role of the sector. he wants to outline a really radical vision of a strong sector driving social change , empowering communities and transforming public services. It promises to be challenging . And I have asked Greg Clark to speak on the Tory plans . Our members are in for a truly rewarding day . Book NOW ; June 12th .And you even get a speech from me on the need for sector mergers and partnerships with the private sector. If you want thought leadership ; think acevo. Whinging NO . Ideas for change YES.

Feeling fairly dazed I get back to London for an evening with Harvey Nash , the headhunters , who are having an evening of light Opera in St George's Hanover Sq. I'm gagging for a drink , or 2 , but mindful of the latest daft plans from the Home Office on " persistent drinking" ,for goodness sake, I am reasonably abstemious. I'm still fearful of the knock on the door from the local Constabulary after my scandalous" binge drinking with young nephews " revelations in the Sunday blog.

And I still have not prepared my speech for our trade union report launch in No 11 tomorrow morning . Breakfast time I ask you. Inspiring oratory over the croissants . We shall see.

No comments: