Friday 31 December 2010

Happy New Year

Well , it has turned into quite a day of celebrations ! My mother's 81st birthday and the New Years Honours List! Most of the family waited up till after midnight to see the list ; I had not mentioned what was to be in it! My brother had guessed an OBE ! So they was much rejoicing to see the actual entry. You could hardly miss it in there at number 3 ; and wedged between , as brother commented, an odd industrialist and my old Politics tutor at Oxford.

But you can rely on your relations to keep you down to size : I phoned my Aunt Joan with the news and she said , " well, I shan't be calling you Sir , you are still that naughty boy I used to look after " ! And my great Aunt Marjorie, at the splendid age of 98 , said she always thought that the lovely boy in his grey flannelette suit made by his mother would go far!

We celebrated as a family , together with the Hound ( now to be known as Lady Sparkles ) at the Port Light up on the cliffs overloking a gloomy looking Atlantic. Fish and chips and champagne. Nothing too grand. Untypically I turned down a request to do a Sky interview on my Honour.

But work goes on. We have been working with the Times on a story that will make the news tomorrow . So it means phone on tonight and not too much Joliet or I won't be compos to talk to press. That would never do. The sector faces an uncertain future 2011 may be a great challenge. Major cuts. VAT rising on Tuesady. Gift aid transitional relief going. We face potentially thousands of organisations failing or merging. And the key point is that demand for what we do is as important as ever. Demand will increase. The cuts will harm many of our beneficiaries.

Paul Woodward, the CEO of Sue Ryder has pointed out that the rise in VAT will cost him £1m. With £1m he could fund a 16 bed hospice for
6 months or provide 50,000 hours of patient care.

It is time the Governmnet acted. We are to make a proposal to the Chancellor for a specific measure to support the sector now. It's essential. If we get that support then our sector can rise to the challenge that more service delivery will provide. The long term future f our sector remians bright. But 2011 will be fierce.

Happy New Year to you all.

Wednesday 29 December 2010

That was Christmas that was!

Allison Ogden Newton's Blog of Christmas prompted me to a reflection on the Bubb Christmas!

One of the highlights was the Festival of 9 Lessons and Carols at Southwark Cathedral. It was packed out. I nearly got stuck in the N Transept which would never do so I managed to transoprt myself and Head Hunter extraordinaire Mr Fielding to the Choir where we had both an excellent auditory and visual experience of the excellent choir. In 2010 the Cathedral has been celebrating the remarkable reign of the Rev Henry Sacheverell. In 1709 he had become so incensed at the actions of the then Government that he preached a number of sermons deriding them. He became both celebrated and notorious. And the Government were not happy. So in 1710 he was charged with seditious libel and convicted to a 3 year suspension of preaching. The public were outraged and the Government humiliated. The Government subsequently fell. In recognition of the courage of the Rev , Queen Anne gave her Arms to the Church where they can still be seen today. It demonstrates the importance of the Church's role in speaking out,particularly on behalf of the marginalised and excluded. That must always be a role for the Church and their voice will be much needed in the coming years.

I guess it's a sign of old age but after a gorgeous Christmas repast and fine wines my aged parents and I fell asleep on the sofas ( my sister Lucy said the noise of snoring was quite appalling ) and didn't get round to opening Christmas presents till after 8 pm! And to think as a child I could hardly wait to get at my stocking and sack left by kindly Santa !

Now I'm down in Devon , in Hope Cove , at my brother Nick's for the usual Bubb clan New Year get together. It's my mothers 81st birthday tomorrow. We shall be celebrating!


The government green paper published today is a welcome boost for the need to increase giving in the UK. It's shocking but true that 8% of us account for nearly half of all giving. And as The Archbishop of Canterbury reminded us at Christmas ,the rich are pathetic at sharing their good fortune. So Acevo fully supports the notion that we need to establish a giving norm of 1%. It was an idea canvassed by Greg Clark MP when in opposition so let's see how we can get it implemented.

Following objections from the Treasury, the green paper is noncommittal about fresh tax breaks for giving, but says many of the existing incentives are poorly understood by UK corporations. Payroll giving is perceived as too time consuming by many small businesses, while big corporate donors tend to give to a narrow range of causes likely to be uncontroversial with shareholders.

And the fact that charities will face a major new tax bill from January 4th when VAT rises, they will lose £140 m when gift aid relief is removed in April and they continue to lose millions because of the Treasury refusal to reform the gift aid scheme. All of this against unprecedented and savage cuts and rising demand. . The Green Paper would have rung more true HMT dropped the Scrooge act and continued transitional relief and started on the urgent reform of the system.

Acevo has for years argued one sensible reform would be to reverse the declaration on the gift aid forms so you opt out if you are a tax payer , rather than the current opt in. A good example of how this loses charities money was my own experience at the SouthwarUk Cathedral Carol Service last week. They were excellent in providing the gift aid envelopes and I filled mine in , but the declaration was so small I missed it until the excellent David Fielding pointed out my error. How many other taxpayers sitting there did the same thing? Of course the Treasury resist even this simple change as they don't want us to take full advantage of the scheme. Until the Government speaks with one voice and the Treasury play their part in encouraging giving I'm afraid there will be hollow laughs at ideas to get people to give at the cash point. No doubt the Treasury have already announced that they cant allow you to gift aid cash point machine donations. If you donate by mobile phone you also can't gift aid. So I shall be unable to wish George Osborne a Happy New Year till he gets a grip and sorts all this.

Friday 24 December 2010

Happy Christmas

Wishing you all a very Happy Christmas

Tuesday 21 December 2010

Yes to Localism!

I disagree with Vince Cable's comments about the Local Government reforms going too far. The localism Bill is a major and historic change in the relationship of Local Government both to communities and to the central State.

Giving Local Councils a power of general competence is a major and important constitutional change.

For the third sector the new rights to challenge and to buy are of huge significance and mark a turning point in relationships between Councils and the sector. It turns on its head the usual relationship of patronage, where power resides in a Town Hall and may be given away if Councillors decide that, to a position where our sector, for the first time, has the right to demand power and be given it, not as patronage but as a right.

I met with Greg Clark MP in the Commons for a very useful and frank discussion of these opportunities and challenges. ACEVO will be working with him and DCLG in making sure this legislation gets onto the statue books. I suspect local Government will be arguing these new rights are not necessary and create more bureaucracy. We will resist any attempt to water this down and we are developing our briefings for MPs for the second reading on January 17th.

We talked particularly about the right to challenge and how this is not limited to only local voluntary organisations. There is a wonderful opportunity here for local and national to work together and ACEVO is going to do work with our members to explore this new potential for partnership.

This will build on work we have done with the Community Alliance, and BASSAC in particular, to exploit joint working in the sector between small and large organisations.

It was good to see Greg. He held the third sector brief in opposition and has a clear understanding of the sector and what we can achieve. He also has a strong grip on his brief and a determination to make lasting change. And as these discussions go we had a good chat about owning dogs, (I have on and he was asking about the challenge of dog owning), the glories of the weather and holiday plans!

I moved from the Commons to the Cabinet Office for a meeting of the Public Service Forum Employers side. This is the first time ACEVO has been asked to join the employers side - a group of the public sector and Local Government employers. We discussed the recent decision to scrap the "two tier code", a good thing as I said, and Government consultations on public service reform and on commissioning.

I notice there has been some criticism in the sector over the short timescale on consultation given for these green papers - responses have to be made by Jan 5th. I don't agree with such criticism. These papers deal with issues that rehearse well known problems and where our views are well developed. So let's get on with it.

ACEVO has a clear view on what members want from commissioning reform and from more diversity in public service provision. We should do, we have been pushing these points for years! So we will not have a problem in getting our response in!

One of the key points for Government that I made at the meeting is to think again about long term contracts. We have argued for ages that contracts should often be 7-10 years. We seem to have settled for three. But if you want to promote opt outs and mutuals then a first time legacy contract needs to be of sufficient length to enable effective capitalisation.

I also argued that transitional leadership training is essential as culture change is crucial for success.

The Public Services Forum is at the end of January when we meet with the Unions. Francis Maude MP (who Chairs) and Oliver Letwin MP will be attending. It may be a sparky meeting, judging by the comments made by Len McCluskey, the new head of Unite. An amazingly ill judged interview in The Guardian.

Some highlights:

"I would argue there is no case for cuts at all"...

"So I hope Ed Miliband is going to continue his welcome course of drawing a line under Labour's Blairite past".

"This is a capitalist crisis"

"There are Labour councillors embarking on union-bashing under cover of cuts, something we won't tolerate"

"While it is easy to dismiss 'general strike now' rhetoric... We have to be preparing for battle" (or in other words, general strike now)

Unite was a once great union, led by giants like Ernest Bevin and Jack Jones. Amazing to reflect that this union is supposed to represent workers in the third sector! It's high time there was a modernisation movement in the unions. Time to look forward to a new settlement for public services, rather than back to 1929. Thank goodness Ed slapped him down.

And after all this heavy policy discussion it was good to relax over an agreeable Thai meal with Loretta Minghella, the new CEO of Christian Aid. Good to have her as a member. It's a charity I have been supporting since youth and she is a charming and talented representative for this great organisation.

Good to donate to them for Christmas. Click here.

Monday 20 December 2010

Snow and Greg

Here are photos of my gorgeous cottage in Charlbury in the snow. Just right for Christmas!

I do enjoy the snow. And the Hound loves it!

I'm just off for a meeting with Greg Clark MP to talk about the Localism Bill and the opportunities for the sector. I'm interested particularly in the chance for local and large charities to work together on the " right to challenge" over the delivery of services in the new Bill. In the delivery of disability , education , jobs and children's services there is real potential for joint working. Charities like Action for Children already have such partnerships; marrying the logistical and managerial skills in larger charities with local community reach and knowledge.

Of course the context of council cuts could not be more difficult. It is becoming clearer that many members are particularly worried about cash flow. I have heard of one charity bankrupted, not by any problem on their accounts or business model but they did not have cash flow as the public sector would not pay bills on time and delayed to the point where they simply ran out of money.

Most third sector bodies have very limited reserves- often less than 3 months. In the face of threats of delays by councils and health authorities to payments so they can save a few pence I know some members are taking action to build reserves- one by selling assets.

It is often thought that a time of recession means the weaker and less efficient organisations go to the wall. This is not always true in our sector.
So the opportunities in the new Bill are welcome- indeed herald an historic change in relations between the sector and the local state. But it will be a bumpy ride!

Friday 17 December 2010

Bring back the Future Jobs Fund!

Unemployment at 2.5m: running at 7.9%. Major job losses in the public sector. And unemployment among young people rising significantly. Women are doing worse than men. And the worst hit areas are Yorkshire and the North East(areas that also took the biggest hits in the Council cuts).

This is not good news.

Predictions are that another 100,000 jobs in the public sector will go over the next few months. Worrying is the fact that long term unemployment is rising, with all the damaging and scarring effects that has. The number of people out of work for a year or more has reached a 13 year high.

We don't know exactly how many jobs have been lost in the third sector. There will have been many. And many more to come. We are beginning to collect the statistics because we need to know. For those in the sector who have seen the damage that unemployment can do to individuals, families and communities this is deeply worrying. Members tell me there major concern is the rising levels of youth unemployment, which evidence shows has the potential to scar individuals for life.

That is why James Purnell (who I saw at breakfast yesterday) was so right to bring in the £1b Future Jobs Fund. And why the Government made a major mistake in abolishing it. It has very successfully created good full time jobs for youngsters - mainly delivered through the third sector. The work of 3SC in drawing together consortia of small community groups has shown real potential.

So let me make a prediction. FJF will be back. Not called that obviously, but there will need to be direct action to tackle youth unemployment if it continues to grow. A hands off, free market approach that suggests the private sector will provide more jobs is shaky in the extreme. And the prospect of rising homelessness coupled with high youth unemployment will get the sector on the campaigning trail again.

It's been a hectic week of breakfasts, Xmas parties and meetings. I leave the Institute of Government's carol party for dinner at the Athenaeum with the wondrous member, Andrew Barnett of the Gulbenkein Foundation, and headhunter, David Fielding. Well done me for making breakfast early the next day with Gareth Davies, the new Head of the OCS. Gareth is a Good Thing. A top class civil servant who also dresses well. And talking of top class people we bumped into Will Hutton on the way out and I had a good discussion with him on unemployment and how to tackle it through a strong role for the third sector.

I've been in the Lords three times already this week; the last time for a very useful session with Lord Rennard on our Big Society Commission - amusingly I bump into Nat Wei on the way out as I clutch my bags of Lords' whisky (intended for Xmas presents).

And talking of "Big Society" I was interested in the "row" that has broken out in the community sector over this. Apparently a meeting of the Community Sector Coalition led by Matthew Scott, who I admire greatly, ended in concluding that it may well be a cover for cuts. Cue Kevin Curley of NAVCA defending it. And the sector media loving it though storm in a teacup springs to mind!

Of course people and organisations in the sector have different views on BigSoc. I would hope that was the case. Perish the day we ever have the ONE view. I hate the "tidy brigade" who tell us that the sector needs one voice. This is a diverse sector. That is a strength. And so there will be many voices. And organisations to represent them. And debate. Sometimes vigorous. That is what our sector should promote; a plurality of views and opinions. It is the essence of a healthy thriving democracy. A civil society with one voice is not civil. It's Stalinist.

So as I remind people who try and tidy up the sector, merge us all and get us "speaking with one voice" do they tell the private sector to do that? Or the public sector? So don't patronise us.

And on the Curley view on BigSoc I'm hoping that the Commission we have set up (first meeting on January 11th) will help air different views but work towards a framework of what the third sector wants from BigSoc. We shall be hearing from NAVCA and the Community Sector Coalition amongst many others. We will be holding a series of evidence gathering sessions as well as consulting key organisations within the sector and outside. It's an impressive group of Commissioners and I think we will have some good discussions.

Thursday 16 December 2010

Funding our Future

Funny that, I thought on seeing the report of the NCVO Funding Commission. Where have I heard that before? And of course it was the title of the famous ACEVO report on core costs and full cost recovery. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery as they say!

And perhaps not surprising as Richard Gutch, the Secretary of it, was a former ACEVO Chair when he led Arthritis Care. So none the worse for that.

This is a valuable report; clear recommendations and mapping future needs and developments. Also a thorough mapping of past trends and useful information about sector financing.

The stress on a major expansion of social capital is right. I would have given this more prominence and frankly I'm not sure the scale they suggest is anything like that which we need.

I'm not sure the incremental approach is necessarily always right and I thought Third Sector's Editor Stephen Cook's description of "an exercise in the art of the possible" a good one. Given constraints I understand that but if this sector is not about impossible dreams happening we should all put on our carpet slippers.

The emphasis given to rationalisation and mergers is another good prod forward. And a prod to us at the top to work together. Another call for rationalisation is needed and should be supported: as we are doing in ACEVO with our recent superb guide to mergers. But the idea of a £60m restructuring fund and small Big Society grants are hardly radical though helpful.

There is also perhaps a little too much of the recommending how every one should spend their money and do saintly things.

The next decade will see a premium on organisations diversifying income streams, not relying on grants and discovering the power of loans. Umbrella bodies will need to be lean and efficient - trading up and helping sector bodies to scale up. If we can't break into the capital markets then this report is just about tinkering at the edge. No harm in that; it's needed. But loans and new mechanism like impact bonds, social stock exchange are where the future lies. They say it should be possible to attract £10b into the sector over the next decade. For real growth this is still small scale.

Let's remember that at the close of the Futurebuilders programme applications were running at £90m per month - or over £1b a year just for this programme. So demand is significantly in excess of that and Government looks to us to do more. £10b is simply small scale. May sound large but chicken feed in the scale of public spending.

Just as the ACEVO "Funding our Future" report radicalised revenue funding from the State and adopted FCR as the way to fund, we now need to see a revolution in access to capital. That's the Big frontier to cross. That's what should have been the Big recommendation of the twelve!

Wednesday 15 December 2010

Prison works....and pigs fly.

"Prison works" is one of those mindless slogans that sounds good if you are a keen fan of flogging people but are patently not supported by any facts.

Hardly surprising Michael Howard is at it again but disappointing Theresa May (whose recent Mac is a sensation) has joined in this attack on the entirely sensible plans of Ken Clarke and the MoJ.

If prison works how come 50% of prisoners are back in jail in a year and 70% in two years?

Unless of course you mean it works 'cos you can't burgle homes if you are in the Clink in which case we better lock up all criminals for life. Treble the MoJ budget and let's fill the land with prisons.

Having served 20 years on the Youth Court Magistrates Bench I know of few colleagues who felt that prison worked. Indeed the opposite was so often true.

That is why the work of our third sector is so crucial. Supporting rehabilitation. Work on addiction and mental health. On employing ex-offenders. Yet only 4 % of MoJ budget goes to the sector.

The plans of Ken Clarke for a "rehabilitation revolution" are both eminently sensible and the right approach. He must not be blown of course. We need to defend the plans of the MoJ.

There is some fascinating stuff going on. The Social Impact Bond idea which the Social Investment Business is discussing with MoJ is a huge opportunity. We must capitalise third sector organisations to go to scale. We have to vastly expand the work and budgets of the sector. We must close prisons to pay for it.

And finally I was fascinated to read the recent musings of one Nadine Dorries MP, who has said,

"we have mainstream core Conservative principles that for the good of the Coalition and the country we are suppressing"!

What exactly are these core principles that are not for the good of the country may I ask?

I would suggest "prison works" is just one of those core Conservative principles that is not for the good of the country! So keep on the good work Ken.
Rehabilitation works. Stick with it. And the great thing about Ken Clarke, who is a politician of the highest order, is that he will. Hush puppies are coming back!

Learning Day

One of the great strengths of ACEVO as a membership body is the great diversity of its membership. Perhaps the image you would pick up from the sector media is of an organisation that represents traditional charities but, of course, we range across social enterprise, learned societies, membership organisations, faith groups, trade unions, political parties and community organisations.

Yesterday I was meeting with a number of members whose work is particularly fascinating and important, though not perhaps well known in the wider sector.

I met up with Wilf Stevenson, now Lord Stevenson, who has just been appointed as Chair of the Consumer Credit Counselling Service. This is an incredibly important charity working in Leeds who provide debt restructuring for people whose credit card bills have become a serious problem. They take on the restructuring of these bills and provide an affordable way to repay debt to avoid bailiffs and all the horrors that can sometimes attend such problems.

Apparently something like 100,000 people have credit card debts of £27k and more, and these are from individuals whose earning capacity is putting them at risk. The Service know that they are often underlying mental health issues and are looking at work they can do on this issue, particularly in trying to stop people getting back into a cycle of credit card debit. These are unsung heroes. Read more here.

I then went to dinner in the Lords with one of my members, Dr Julie Madigan, the Chief Executive of the Manufacturing Institute. This is a large charity which exists to promote an appreciation of the importance and value of manufacturing to the country, we well as providing professional development and support.

As Julie says they are a body with a "passionate belief in the future of manufacturing in the UK" and she pointed out that whilst 11% of the UK economy is accounted for by financial services, manufacturing still accounts for 12% yet there is a common misconception that manufacturing is somehow dead in the UK.

The Institute are based in Manchester and one of the most interesting new developments is a charity they have set up called "Fab Lab". This is something they have developed with Massachusetts Institute of Technology which has developed 55 of these organisations worldwide but the "Fab Lab" in Manchester is the first of its kind in the UK. This allows individuals and communities who have ideas about how to make things the digital technology to do so. They attract young people, entrepreneurs and innovators and local community groups. It gives communities access to advanced equipment and resources that are normally beyond their reach. The exciting thing is that this enables individuals, as opposed to companies, to make things.

So in the early stages they have developed things like "Crackit" - a cross between a cricket bat and tennis racket. A young couple developed and prototyped a collapsible carrycot, which they are now taking to market. Other products developed in the "Fab Lab" have included a medical device, a self-locating keyring, plastic champagne glasses (ugh) and a "simplified clip for holding pop up birthday cards".

We had a presentation on the "Fab Lab" and I have to say it was not only a great learning opportunity, but also a revelation about the work that our sector does. And I was pleased that although the "Fab Lab" is obviously a social enterprise they were proud to describe it as a charity. They didn't have any hang-ups about titles. See more here.

Then this morning was a very pleasant breakfast with Peter Wanless, the Chief Executive of the Big Lottery Fund. We are working with BLF on the Transition Fund and many of my staff have been involved in meetings around the country on this recently. It is a good cooperation.

Tuesday 14 December 2010

Sister sings

A great start to the week! Lunch with Allison Ogden-Newton and hatching plans about transitional leadership development - much needed as leaders in local Councils look at change and opt-outs. We even managed a toast to Robin Bogg who we decided is a national treasure!

Then it was off to celebrate my sister Lucy's birthday (a significant one!) At tea in the Langham Hotel; all most agreeable, especially the scones. Here she is with her "birthday cake" ...

And here are gorgeous nieces;

Amy and Miranda

And here a photo of my gorgeous nephews

Oliver and Julian

They are available for marriage proposals, though I suggested to them something involving a stately home and fine wine cellar would be appropriate as their Uncle needs indulging in his dotage!

I reckon a Kate Middleton look alike???

Then we all took off for the Royal Albert Hall where Lucy, a member of the Royal Choral Society, is singing in the annual Carol service. With trumpeters from the Grenadier Guards and a marvellous orchestra it was a rousing sing along and a splendid choral rendition of some old favourites and new renditions of old themes. The Rachmaninoff Magnificat was particularly moving. And this was the second carol service so far. Two more to go.

Monday 13 December 2010


The localism bill is published today. A landmark piece of legislation in two ways. First it gives more power to local Councils to determine policy and practice in line with local wishes not central direction, and second, it gives more power to local communities.

This measure is long overdue and welcome. It provides huge opportunities for our third sector; for charities, for social enterprises and community groups. It could form the basis for productive new partnerships between Councils and the third sector. It will lead to more innovative ways of delivering services through the third sector.

But all this takes place against a background of the most savage cuts in Council grants. So as well as opportunity there is danger as many of my ACEVO members have already found.

I remember one local Council CEO saying that of course they will cut grants to the local voluntary sector as they can get more volunteers and fund raise!

My message to members is not to wait for Councils to impose cuts on them following today's grant announcements, but to get into the Town Hall to discuss how we can deliver more citizen focused services and to see how the new powers of community ownership can be implemented.

But let us also beware Greeks bearing gifts! I welcome the new powers for community ownership of assets. But this can be a trap. I suspect there are some Councils who, facing both a budget cut and a cut in capital allocation, will think this a great chance to offload all those local libraries, youth centres and sports halls with leaky roofs onto a local community that then spends years fundraising for repairs.

Assets ownership can be very empowering for third sector organisations. But they can also be a burden and a problem. A library in community ownership sounds appealing. But once owned they have to be maintained; a financial burden for future years. And potentially drives organisations off mission. So, for example, instead of thinking of ways to raise standards of literacy in the local community through outreach or mentoring the mission becomes getting people to use the library building. Is that youth centre the best way to engage local youth?

So we need to be savvy. If the Council has not been able to develop a sustainable business model for running assets we need to be crystal clear our business model will do so. Owning a building sounds great but is not always a financially sound proposition. So beware the romanticism of community ownership and make sure the finances work. Time for a CEO to keep a strong grip on business planning!

Thursday 9 December 2010


Salaries are of such great interest. Our own and, of course, other people's!

Will Hutton's recent interim report on fair pay in the public sector makes fascinating reading. He makes a crucial point about the public sector which applies in spades and buckets to the third sector.

He warns that super salaries in the private sector are in danger of strangling our public services. Britain "following the US, has created a super class of manager share - owners who are being offered unparalleled scale of compensation to do what used to be considered their job". It has led to a "pay arms race where collectively CEO pay has become increasingly detached from performance".

Attention is being focused on what are supposedly outrageous salaries in the public sector. Yet apparently no one in Government seems to find the really outrageous salaries in the private sector a matter of as much as a moment's notice.

I have strong sympathy with Eric Pickles MP on local Council CEO pay levels. Certainly there seems to have been a bit of a merry-go-round for some and he is right to be critical. But it is difficult not to conclude that localism means just that; local people and their councillors decide?

If there is a strong case and pay needs to be attractive to tempt someone from the commercial sector then salaries will sometimes be high.

I know in our own sector some of our top CEOs have come in from private or public sector jobs on what seem high salaries, but are much less than they were earning previously.

And we should heed the warning of Will Hutton who argues to beware a race to the bottom in public sector pay.

"Britain could follow the US and have a public sector locked in a downward vortex of under performance, poor pay and a falling talent pool, which becomes a depressant on the entire economy and society."

As Hutton points out, in spite of howls about fat cat salaries in the public sector pay, only £1 in every £100 taken by the top 1% of Britain's earners goes to public sector people.

So what of our sector? I guess the figure might be 0.1% of 1%! We have to be vigilant that all this "no more than the PM salary" stuff does not halt the progress we have made on professional pay rates for top managers.

And as for the 20:1 pay multiple between top and bottom pay that is being suggested for the public sector I doubt our own sector will be shy in comparison. Why, in ACEVO it is 6:1 and I suspect a similar pattern in other member organisations. So let's beware the hair shirt brigade. Our sector must also be able to recruit top talent. We should be out and proud at the way pay has advanced in our sector. We cannot return to the days when people on retirement took a charity CEO job on small salaries as a boost to their pension.

ACEVO has prepared a briefing for members on how to respond to questions about pay which can be found here:

Tuesday 7 December 2010

Highland Diary P2. And Letters to The Times!

Well the current temperature is minus 11! So its bracing! A magnificent day though; the sun and blue sky contrasting with the deep snow newly refreshed by an overnight fall!

But not without problems - the car has now come off the road three times, the last requiring the assistance of some lovely Scots in a Land Rover!

Ballater is coping well, as they do in Scotland in contrast to us London wimps, and looks stunning.

The Queen's Bakers

Ballater Church

The climb up Craigendarroch yesterday was somewhat more difficult than I remember from the past. Mind you, I use the term "climb" advisedly; there was lots of sitting on backside or face in snow action too! Indeed part of the descent took place on backside - a sight not recorded for the Blog. But here are some shots of the views.

And modern communications work, even up Highland mountains. I read a ridiculous article by Libby Purves in The Times suggesting small charities are been victimised by large ones in tendering. How typical that she chooses to blame the sector rather than the way the State commissions! As if small or big charities find tendering easy or a walk over. And can't say I'd noticed so called big charities gobbling up all the tenders, as opposed to SERCO or Capita!! It's a bit like blaming victims for their own misfortunes. So come on Libby, let's have a little more rigorous journalism please - check out how commissioning works and how organisations like ACEVO have been pressing for change so all parts of our sector can benefit. And perhaps she might examine how even so called "big" charities lose out to mega large commercial companies.

So drop the divide and rule nonsense Libby. I was so cross with it we organised an immediate response and delighted to see it printed in The Times Letters today! Read my letter in The Times, here it is;

Sir, Libby Purves (Opinion, Dec 6) says that big charities "mimic statutory organisations" and as a result small charities are "victims", yet her views bear no relation to the evidence. In June 2010 the independent Third Sector Research Centre published evidence that the gap between larger and smaller charities is falling and that charitable resources are actually less concentrated in larger organisations. Furthermore the growth in the sector experienced in the past two decades has been fairly equally distributed with slightly more benefit to medium-sized organisations.

With over 180,000 registered charities in England and Wales, finding one case study to illustrate a point is a simple task. But the truth is that both large and small charities innovate, and both large and small charities are inhibited by bureaucracy and bad commissioning. The very best charities of all sizes are working closer together and forming new types of partnerships that press their respective advantages for the benefit of vulnerable people.

Stephen Bubb
Chief Executive,

The Big Society Commission

Lord Rennard, former Chief Executive of the Liberal Democrats, (and also a former ACEVO member!) is to Chair a Commission on Big Society bringing together high profile political and civil society thinkers.

It's an interesting group which will come together to define and analyse the "Big Society" concept from the point of view of civil society. It includes; The Bishop of London, Philip Collins (Chair of Demos and leader writer for The Times), Nick Boles MP (PPS to Minister of State for Schools, Nick Gibbs MP), Paul Boateng (former Chief Secretary to the Treasury and former High Commissioner to South Africa, Louise Casey, the Victims Commissioner and Michael Quicke, CEO of CCLA.

Those from the sector have been chosen to reflect the range of the sector from large charities to small, delivery and campaigning and advocacy; Dame Clare Tickell, Action for Children; Matt Hyde, Chief Executive, National Union of Students; Jane Slowey, Chief Executive, Foyer Federation, and Chair of Skills Third Sector; Hilary Belcher, Chief Executive, Mosaic Clubhouse; Peter McGurn, Chief Executive, Goodwin Trust and Srabani Sen, CEO of Contact a Family.

It's an impressive group; we wanted a broad based bunch to reflect different angles and views so there is cross party and cross sector representation!

"The Commission on Big Society launched today is being formed by ACEVO in order to articulate a civil society vision for what charity leaders want to achieve through the Big Society agenda, and to recommend practical steps that Government, third sector organisations and others need to take to make that vision a reality".

And all good Commissions should be launched on The Today programme! Lord Rennard did a good interview, articulate and impressive. Inevitably he had to deal with the money question. As all our members face cuts does Big Society mean anything? He gave a brilliant example of how our service delivery is often both a better service but more cost effective so Government needs to consider investment in our sector. Speaking at the launch of the Commission on Big Society, Lord Rennard today said,

Big Society presents exciting opportunities for civil society and the country more broadly but it’s crucial that we think through the practical actions needed to make it work. It is important that this thinking takes place not just within the confines of Whitehall but encompasses the views of leaders from across civil society.”

I think it is time we started defining Big Society rather than listening to Government Ministers telling us what it is, or isn't! We should take ownership of this idea and give it clarity and definition; we can then tell Government the steps needed to promote the country's civil society and work with them to achieve it.

The Commission will hold their first meeting in January. There will be a series of Commission evidence gathering meetings around the country, and research to support it, including the work of NCVO through the support of their talented Head of Research, Karl Wilding. This will be a Commission that gathers together views across our broad and diverse sector.

Monday 6 December 2010

A Highland Diary

Well, as the snow started thawing in London I hightailed it to the Highlands, where the snow lies in magnificent abandon. I'm staying at Craigendarroch just outside Ballater on Royal Deeside for a week of rest, reading, recharging batteries and vigorous walking!

The walking however is a challenge when the snow is over your knees. Thank goodness for thermals!

So here are some photos to enjoy;

Proper icicles- outside my window!

Friday 3 December 2010


A great day yesterday; a meeting of the ACEVO Board and the Fortnum's Charity evening, one of them accompanied by drink. For some reason the Fortnum event, organised by that great organisation, "The Big Give", was packed out with Labour Peers and even Cherie Blair and Ruby Wax!

But enough of fun, what about our third sector campaigning role. It's a key feature of all we do in our sector and our voice; protecting the excluded and arguing for a more just society will be much in need over the coming years.

I was fascinated by a study from the Third Sector Research Centre on the role we played in the last General Election.

According to the report, the third sector was “given a voice” during the 2010 election campaign.

The Opportunity and influence study was undertaken to measure the effects of the election on increasing the sector's influence in politics and found that the recent election had helped to increase focus on the sector.

Documentary analysis and interviews with key stakeholders undertaken before, during and after the election found that the sector “was implicitly at the heart of all party agendas” and that most commentators “expected to see a significant role for the third sector in policy developments and public service delivery in the coming years.”

The study notes distinctions in terms of the sector's various campaigning portfolios including longer, more election-focused campaigning as well as opportunistic and anti-electoral campaigning.

I was also delighted to see a strong endorsement of the work ACEVO did to focus attention on us. Our Tory Summit at Millbank was, of course, a huge success in particular. As the report says,

"Efforts from key players such as ACEVO, which held summits with the three main parties in the six months prior to the election, are congratulated in an election which made political positioning more treacherous."

Interestingly it argues that organisations making themselves available for comment on arising issues are also positively highlighted as opposed to those practising caution by limiting campaigning to behind-the-scenes, which are seen as having had an “inhibiting effect” on dialogue.

Thursday 2 December 2010

Appraisals, Councils, BigSoc and Big Charity, Small Charity

Appraisals. Very important part of the CEO role! Yesterday it was my Deputy, Dr Kyle's turn. But these things need to be done in a civilised fashion; so we did it over lunch at Roux, a new restaurant on Parliament Square. We were sandwiched (so to speak) between Andrew Rawnsley and a Government Minister, who I didn't recognise so assume was a Lib-Dem, and Rt Hon Tessa Jowell MP on the other side.

Fortunately Andrew Rawnsley has a loud voice so we picked up some interesting gossip but it would be indiscreet to reveal that in my Blog - in advance of Andrew writing about it that is!

The morning had started with me making the open keynote speech at an Inside Government event on BigSoc as the Social Investment Business Chair. I think it went down well; a sardonic commentary of the idea but with a strong plea for the sector to rise to the challenge of expanding service delivery with greater capitalisation. I'm speaking with Neil O'Connor, the senior official in DCLG responsible for the BigSoc work, and Nat Wei follows on and draws lessons from the water leak in his flat in Shoreditch.

There was a telling moment when one of my members, who runs an autism charity, told me her worries about localism and neighbourhood budgets.

One of the people they support, a lone parent who lives in a massive Tower Block in North London has two twins with severe spectrum autism. Rain sets them off screaming. How does the local community react? Support? No; they get up a petition to have them evicted and they are afraid to leave the flat as the kids have been threatened with violence.

I offer this story to the Big Society Network as they develop their plans for "Your Square Mile". Will neighbourhood budgets be spent to support those kids? People with mental health problems? Excluded and marginalised communities?

As my member said, "communities are not always kind".

A thought I take with me to a reception in the Commons being held by HFT, a big charity who work with people with learning difficulties (previously known as the Home Farms Trust). The CEO, Brian Perowne, is a good member of ACEVO and he is stepping down and handing over the reins to an excellent chap, Robert Longley Cook, who has been one of the Directors at WRVS. They are unveiling a remarkable "Virtual Smart House". This is a web based guide to what technology can do to support people with disabilities. So we get a virtual tour; from the front door with finger print recognition, to the bathroom where a smart plug has an alarm to tell you it's overflowing and turns red if the temperature is too hot, to the bedroom where a device sets an alarm up if you have left your bed for too long!

All this has been developed by the charity with their own resources. A remarkable example of a big charity innovation. There are many of these and I have written to Nick Hurd MP and Nat Wei pointing them out. Thank goodness for the "big charity mindset" that brings so much comfort to our citizens nd communities. And know they have requests to translate it into use by five other countries.

Whilst in the Commons I bump into Greg Clark MP and the wonderful Baroness Scott, better known as Debbie Scott, the CEO of Tomorrow's People. A useful chat on both the work SIB is doing on the Communitybuilders Programme and on the recent announcements of the framework for Welfare to Work Programme. I had previously been to meet Lord Freud to talk through how the third sector can step up to the mark in delivery, but also crucially how small charities and community organisations can be fully involved in delivery. A major criticism of the last Government's programmes were how they discriminated against small organisations. DWP have done a lot of work on this and the prospectus of the new programme makes clear the obligation on prime contractors to work effectively with charities and the Merlin Standard they have introduced (as a result of the ACEVO taskforce; Lord Freud was Vice Chair). I must admit I have a huge admiration for David Freud. A real star who is committed to reforming our welfare systems and who has made a brilliant transition from working for the wonderful James Purnell to the great IDS!

And then to cap off the day it was dinner at CCLA with local Council CEOs. ACEVO had organised this with Rob Whiteman, the CEO of Local Government's Improvement and Development Agency. CCLA generously laid on a splendid repast and their charming and deeply bright CEO, Michael Quicke, said a few words - CCLA have a strong history as a charity and local Council investor so what could have been more appropriate!

A fascinating discussion. Some real insights into how Councils are looking to change and adapt. We had some great interventions from CEOs of Brent, Barnet, Wiltshire and Shropshire. I think there was general agreement that Councils were moving to a stronger emphasis on their enabling and strategic role and looking to any willing provider to deliver cost effective and citizen focused services.

I was grateful to my charming and glamorous Vice Chair, Allison Ogden-Newton, for telling me I had sat down to eat with my lapel mike still on and that the room was being treated to Bubb munching and she thought I was in danger of also transmitting my thoughts on people's contributions in what might not have been a helpful way!

We are now looking at holding an Awayday with Councils CEOs and our members. That will be fun.

Wednesday 1 December 2010

Gift Aid, Public Health and St Hilda's.

A meeting of the Gift Aid Forum yesterday - in the Chancellor's room no less (as my Head of Policy said, that's a good indication we are getting nothing!).

Let's be honest and say we are disappointed. There are some good things in the proposals for Gift Aid reform which we support. We will help make it happen. But clearly the sector was hoping for more.

The Government has trumpeted the Big Society, the need to increase donations and reduce charities' dependence on State funding. At the same time we face a VAT rise, loss of transitional relief, signs of falling donations and major spending cuts, this is a frankly disappointing and unambitious outcome.

It doesn’t take a Treasury economist to work out that standardisation and more toolkits will do little to compensate the sector for the loss of £100 million in transitional relief and £140 million due to the rise in VAT, plus swingeing spending cuts.

But I do very much welcome the silver lining in Justine Greening’s commitment to leaving ‘no stone unturned’, as she said, in looking at other ways to support the sector through the tax system. We will look forward to engaging with HMT on that, and hope the result will be substantive action of a kind that sadly the Gift Aid Forum has not led to.

Cynics would argue the Forum was devised by HMT to ensure no action but that is too cynical surely!

There are lessons for our sector here too, and those of us involved will need to reflect on what I think we should all accept has been a collective failure to achieve more for the sector at a time of need.

We did not speak with a collective voice, nor could even agree the importance of the call for a continuation of transitional relief. Lessons for the future?

But onto potentially more rewarding news. Public health.

We welcome Government’s recognition of the ‘vital contribution’, (as the White Paper says), the third sector already makes to public health and the commitment to putting the sector at the heart of their plans for public health, including by encouraging Local Authorities to commission services from independent providers.

Much of the success of the Government’s plans will now rest on the relationships between Authorities and the third sector. With some local Councils already cutting back their support for voluntary organisations in order to ‘protect their own’, there is a danger that Lansley’s vision will be undermined by Local Government salami-slicing before the new public health service is even up and running. Councils need to work intelligently with their local third sector to foster the kind of thriving civil society which will enable them to deliver on the Government’s public health agenda.

Although the public health budget is ring-fenced watch out for Councils deciding some of their core services; pot holes for example, are redefined as part of the public health agenda. Why, we don't want old people falling into the holes and breaking things!

But overall, the direction of travel is right. And members will be quick to galvanise around the opportunities; both for advocacy, advice and support and for delivery.

A busy day that was capped by a dinner at St Hilda's College, Oxford. It took forever to get there on our creaky train system and I arrived wet, cold and grumpy. And managed to get there after the main course had been served. But the Claret was awaiting...

I was speaking to a group of Local Authority CEOs and other leading officers on the role of the sector and "Big Society", though we all agreed it was a term that was nearing the end of its shelf life.

I was struck by the willingness to think out of the box on how Councils and the sector can work together better. I think there is an interesting agenda for Councils and national charities. So often the local Council perspective is defined solely by local infrastructure. It needs both local, regional and national perspectives.

The Council agenda is one ACEVO will be pursuing with more dedication over the next decade.

Tuesday 30 November 2010

FEBEA, Public Health and Snow !

In a freezing, snowy Brussels for a meeting of the European Federation of Ethical and Alternative Banks. I'm here to discuss ways in which the EU can promote and develop social finance and loans for third sector organisations.

We are investigating the potential for a European taskforce on social finance so I meet with the heads of some of Europe's top social banks and co-operatives at lunch time for a chat to see what is possible.

And, most important, it's off to see the Chef de Cabinet of the European President of the EU. That proves to be most useful. Indeed important to the development of the taskforce. The fact that I knew Richard Corbett at Oxford, naturally, does help I'm sure.... but I must say no more!

The EU is a strange bureaucratic institution. The buildings exude a sort of depressing public sector style - they have clearly been designed by committees. What they need is a strong does of Euro third sector. Sweep way the cobwebs and let in the fresh air of life as it really is.

And yet this is the bureaucracy we need to use to our advantage. The mistake that many Brits make is to think it's all too tedious and un Anglo-Saxon so we do not engage. And so lose out. Hence the glaring failure of so much of the UK's third sector to access funds (though the Eurocrats do make that somewhat difficult!).

And now it's snowy London. How fantastic to pull back the curtains this morning to see the snow falling and the pristine whiteness of my garden (prior to Hound jumping all over it - she likes the snow too!).

I decided on my brightest Duchamp tie for today. The one with in your face sunflowers so I cheer everyone up at work!

I was off to a session with Stephen Dorrell MP, the Chair of the Health Select Committee, together with the CBI to talk about our work on private-third sector partnerships. A good meeting as we ruminated on whether the Government reforms will open up the NHS to more innovation and a bigger role for the third sector and independent providers.

A propitious day to talk health as the White Paper on Public Health is published. I believe the move to Local Government is potentially good. But it will depend entirely on how Councils react. As they seem busy on cutting support for the third sector the portents are not good. It is absurd to think you can develop good public health policies without the partnership of the third sector. Our advocacy and advice role, as well as the provider role, must underpin good public health programmes. And the third sector must play a major role in the health and well being boards! And will we? I expect we will see a range of Councils forgetting to have anyone from the sector involved. We shall see. But Bubb is watching.

Monday 29 November 2010

Amazing Grace!

The Harvard Professor Robert Putnam has become somewhat of a sector guru. Why, David Cameron even had him flown in to talk about civil society and his views on it all.

He became famous for his book "Bowling Alone". This pointed to the crucial role that civil society and third sector organisations play in underpinning a vibrant democracy and a healthy society.

Yet he also worried that many people were becoming less involved in organisations in civil society. He illustrated that by arguing people were going bowling but fewer were joining teams. It was a symbol of what he saw as an increasingly individualistic and atomised culture. Our bonds of belonging or "social capital" were growing weaker.

He has written a new book "American Grace" and it's worth looking at his arguments there.

He argues that one powerful source of social capital still exists; religion. This brings people together in shared communities and mutual responsibility. Evidence (remember this is America) defined by regular attendance at a place of worship makes better neighbours. Frequent church or synagogue attenders are more likely to give to charity (whether religious or not) and more likely to volunteer donate blood or help a neighbour for example.

They are also significantly more active citizens; more likely to belong to community organisations or voluntary organisations and more likely to be involved as office holders. They are disproportionately represented among local activists for social and political reform.

Importantly this is more based on the frequency people attend rather than simple religious belief.

Let's beware drawing the wrong conclusions from all this in the UK! Indeed there is far too much unintelligent importing of American ideas on social welfare at the moment. An interesting article in The Observer in Nov, "How Britain's welfare reforms were born in the USA", showed just how persuasive American models were. This is not necessarily a good thing. Taking examples from a culturally specific contact and transplanting them willy nilly is foolhardy. And some will end in tears.

As The Observer article pointed out in relation to their welfare approach,

"One US phenomenon that might serve as a warning is that of the so-called 99ers –people who lost their jobs and have been unable to find work for 99 weeks – the point at which their unemployment welfare is turned off. There are now upwards of 1.4million 99ers in America facing a life with no benefits and few prospects for finding a job in a market in which companies are still not hiring."

Back to the book! It is a fact that the Church in Britain in particular has played a crucial role in developing charity. Indeed, as I pointed out in my recent Lecture for centuries the role of church and charity was the same.

Click here to read it.

And today we can see among ACEVO's membership, faith groups play an important role. We have a special interest group that brings those members together. So let's celebrate the contribution they make.

And let's also remember this isn't just about jam and Jerusalem. The faith groups play a crucial role in social action. Just remember the role they played in make poverty history.

And never mind "American Grace", let's remember Amazing Grace, the hymn written by an Anglican priest, Fr Newton, a great friend of Wilberforce, who campaigned against the slave trade and his hymn became the anthem of all those who stood up against a recalcitrant establishment for universal human rights.

Our sector will always stand up to support the oppressed. Our voice is going to be much needed over the coming years.

Saturday 27 November 2010

Rock on , Dame Suzi!

Fantastic to wake up on a frosty morning ,putting the croissants in the oven, to spot the front page of The Times. The Chair of the Charity Commission warning universities that they could loose their charitable status if they don't ensure admissions from all classes in society. She is right on. And it's fantastic to have her using her position to speak out. She also warns of the dangers of smaller charities losing support and the problems for the Big Society idea if charities cannot play a full and expanding role. We all know that wretched local councils are slashing budgets for our sector. One Council Leader I know blithely asserted that " we will be able to fundraise instead ".

It is great to have the Chair of our regulator speaking up for us and asserting the role and importance of the sector. Speaking truth to power is at the core of our task. And whilst I for one will always assert the vital mission of charities and social enterprises in delivering public services I will aloso have no fear in reminding Governmentswhen they get thngs wrong.

It may be relatively new for the Charity Commission to tale such a high profile role but in these difficult times it is crucial they do. So rock on, Dame Suzi ,we need you ! And when we see the inevitable smear stories emerging about her , let's ensure our sector makes clear it's support for her. This is not the times for ducking behind fences or running for cover!

Friday 26 November 2010

Adieu Leeds

It's always interesting to be in a conference with health professionals. You get an inkling of their strange closed culture where acronyms abound and patients intrude but rarely. Not that they are not fine people with great brains, but our health service is too dominated by the professional and there is not enough interaction with patients or citizens.

We have to hope that the Lansley reforms will encourage a better approach. This will happen especially if the role of our sector expands.

I see that happening through our role both as providers and as a voice for patients and communities. So many organisations in health and social care both provide a focused client based service but also advocate and campaign on citizens behalf. RNIB or RNID , MIND and Rethink ,Diabetes UK or Action on smoking, lots of local support groups provide an extremely important role which we now need to capitalise on.
There is a real challenge for our sector in engaging in GP commissioning. We need to be in their with the GPs persuading them we can support wellness as well as tackling sickness. We can provide the patient voice. And we can deliver cost effective services.

Our host at Leeds Castle was Baroness Julia Cumberledge. An old friend from her days in the 80s when she was a health minister. She greeted me warmly!"Have you still got that marvellous old leather suitcase?". She said it had always amused her and officials that this young radical(yes, that's me! had this old traditional case. But then ,as I said, I have always believed in the strong confluence of radicalism and tradition.

Although there are said to be 3 ghosts here I failed to spot Martyred Ancestor wandering the grounds carrying severed head. Shame as I'd have liked to see the bloody visage to spot any facial similarities! I did however see the Constable's quarters, where GG12, Sir Edward Neville lived during his tenure here .

Sir Edward is on the official Catholic Encyclopedia of English Martyrs and as a descendant I think this should confer a certain holiness on me. Indeed protect me from criticism. Either that or, as the head hunter David Fielding said, it showed a remarkable lack of political savy!

And the cold but sunny weather was glorious as I walked out around the moat this morning.

But with snow coming there is a need for log fires!

Well , all good things come to an end and its' back to Brixton, via the solicitors to sign my Will. So did you take advantage of the charity make a Will month I wonder? Never know when the next beheading is coming eh!

Big Society Bank

An exciting report by Sky News business editor is worth reporting in full.

"Britain’s high street banks are in talks to commit more than £1bn to a community projects-focused ‘Big Society Bank’ as part of an unprecedented pact being thrashed out between the industry and Government, I have learned.

Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds Banking Group, Royal Bank of Scotland and Santander UK are close to agreeing to fork out hundreds of millions of pounds each to the project, which has been given the secret codename Project Merlin.

David Cameron has pledged to establish a Big Society Bank to fund major community projects. Money from dormant bank accounts will be provided to help set it up.

I can also reveal that the ongoing talks between the banks could result in an extraordinary series of pledges being made (almost certainly privately) by the Government.

These could include a commitment to maintain a regulatory level playing field; an agreement “not to impose any further UK-specific payroll, activities or transactions taxation” on the industry, according to somebody involved in the talks; and a deal with the City regulator to offer favourable treatment to the capital provided by the banks for the new Big Society initiative.

According to a document circulating in Whitehall, a copy of which I’ve obtained, the banking sector will play a pivotal role in David Cameron’s Big Society agenda by helping to establish a new institution that will “act as a sustainable provider of wholesale finance to Community Development Finance Institutions across the UK”.

“In addition to surrendering funds from dormant accounts, the Merlin banks agree to advance the Big Society in two ways. First, they will continue to support communities through institution-specific initiatives, through which they currently contribute £[x]m per annum (in cash or in-kind) and expect and intend to maintain that rate of investment,” the document says.

“Second, they will support the successful construction of the Big Society Bank…including, subject to objectives, business plan and structure, the injection of £[x]m of capital over two years, commencing in the first half of 2011.”

My understanding is that the total amount committed by the five participating banks could be between £1bn and £1.5bn over two years although the numbers have not yet been finalised. On top of last year’s Bank Payroll Tax on bonuses, and the new bank levy, that’s not an insignificant sum.

If a final agreement can be struck, the pledge would be an extraordinary one from the banking industry, and would form part of a wider pact aimed at delivering a ceasefire in hostilities between the banks and Government."

If this is true it is superb news for the sector and a major breakthrough. One of my concerns about basing a Bank on just dormant accounts would not give enough capital access. It is estimated that only some £60m would be available at the start.

Against demand this is triffling. When Futurebuilders closed loan applications were running at £60-90m a month.

But we also know that the commercial banking sector is poor to pathetic at lending to the third sector.

To get the scale we need I always thought at least 1-2 billion was needed. Against the background of the service delivery reforms, we need proper access to capital funds. Unless there is effective access we cannot compete for tenders where payments are based on outcomes.

Francis Maude's plans for mutuals require capitalisation. That will not come from local councils or health authorities.

So I'm hoping this story proves accurate. It is what it is needed. If true the government have pulled off a blinder. Congratulations.

Thursday 25 November 2010

At Leeds Castle!

Attending the Sir Roger Bannister Leeds Castle Summit, hosted by the NHS Confederation. Well where else would you discuss the future of the NHS? Henry VIII refurbished it for his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, before going on to take a radical hack at the Church and grabbing its assets! Is that why we are here? A commentary on Andrew Lansley's plans for the NHS?

ACEVO has being working closely with the Department of Health on reform plans and how we can help reshape the health and social care systems to place third sector organisations more in the driving seat.

As citizens and communities demand a bigger say in their health care, as demographics and spending challenges drive innovation our health service is changing. We need to ensure that is for the better.

And I have an added reason to be at Leeds Castle, as I told the delegates to much amusement! My Great-grandfather 12 was the Constable of Leeds Castle - during the time of Henry. Appointed in 1534, Sir Edward Neville had a brief tenure as he was beheaded at the Tower in 1538 for his adherence to the Roman Catholic faith and opposition to Henry's marriage.

So an ancestral "speaking truth to power" gene perhaps? I hope I carry on the tradition, though possibly not to the point of losing my head!

Bedroom fit for a CEO.

Wednesday 24 November 2010

Glamour and unappealing local Councils.

It was a glittering affair. Old Billingsgate. The Guardian Public Sector Awards (I had been one of the judges). I'm a terrible fidget at these things. Hardly in my seat for the first course before off to work the other tables.

Had a good chat with Rt Hon Francis Maude MP who had made the opening speech. Then spotted my magnificent Vice chair, Allison Ogden-Newton, CEO of Social Enterprise London, ensconced on one of the top tables with Jeremy Vine of the BBC, Darra Singh (who runs job Centre plus for the time being until the third sector takes them over) and some grand designer chap whose name escapes me but is frightfully famous.

Lots of my members there looking glam. Andrew Barnett of Gulbenkein spreading delicious gossip, Paul Farmer of MIND, Steve Moore of the BigSocNetwork and many others who I probably failed to spot as a result of my increasing myopia and the general romantic candlelight gloom.

I had arrived late (so missing the so called champagne reception; dreary Cava I suspect but times are hard!) as I had been Chairing the Social Investment Board. Key plans to develop and discuss. We are setting up a taskforce to look at the future of social investment against the background of huge opportunities to capitalise the sector over the next decade. You read it here first.

Local Authorities are proving a major obstacle for the sector. Yesterday we had the first of three meetings being held between us, NCVO and NAVCA and the Local Government Association in Leeds. Turnout from local Councils was dreadful. Junior officials - I guess their bosses are far to busy putting the finishing touches to the cuts package for their local charities to bother coming to talk to us.

Two more to go with Stuart speaking in London next month and me in Bristol in January. But unless the LGA promise to actually get an appropriate level of attendance I doubt we shall bother. It's insulting. Clearly Big Society is Small Deal as far as Council Leaders are concerned.

My Deputy has written a fantastic article for The Guardian on BigSoc. Worth reading. Click here.

'Big society' has little resonance, says Acevo's deputy chief executive Dr Kyle. "David Cameron's key idea has so far fallen short of the community-led approach which it promised."

But it explains why the idea behind this is worth supporting and developing and why the sector should take advantage of the opportunity it represents.

But what to do with local Councils? The Localism Bill is out shortly. Some good things their on right to bid and acquire assets but if they are simply decimating sector organisations the very infrastructure of civil society is damaged, and thus our ability to rise to challenges of community empowerment.

ACEVO is holding a private dinner between some of our members and Council CEOs on 1st December. We shall be having a frank exchange.

And finally I do listen to my readers' concerns! So. "Anon" I accept your comment on readability (echoed by my sister Lucy so I'd better take note) and we have changed the background! Hope Robin approves.

Friday 19 November 2010

Watch it !

BBC Children in Need is on tonight at 7pm on BBC One. Tune in to watch the exciting appeal, where people around the country will be doing their bit to raise money for disadvantaged children and young people across the UK. Hosted by Terry Wogan and Tess Daley, the seven-hour show will come live from BBC Television Centre and will feature some of the UK’s top TV, musical and theatrical personalities and acts. It's a great third sector organisation. Let's all support our colleagues !!!

Commonwealth Big Society,Bills and colds..

So I end my BigSooc week by talking to a consultative session of commonwealth associations about whether this idea has traction across other countries. I have been a member of the Commonwealth's Civil Society advisory committee for some years , extolling the virtues of a bigger sector. I said hay our role is two fold. To expand our delivery of citizen focused services and to promote a healthy democracy. A strong civil society makes for a strong dmwocracy. As one of my colleagues from our umbrella sector says in his strap
Ine, " dissent improves democracy".

As I make my weary way home to nurse my incipient cholera, I hear that the private members bill sponsored by Tory MP Chris White got through it's first stage. The " Public Services ( social enterprise and social value ) Bill. The key part is to put a duty on public sector commissioners to take into account added social and environmental value when assessing tenders. Acevo and all the key umbrellas have been backing this. But of course it goes nowhere without Government support. Putting social value at the heart of government commissioning as the bill proposes would revolutionise the way public money is spent in this country. It would enable all third sector organisations to do more, commissioners to get better value, and people across the country to benefit from better services.

So the task is to lobby Ministers for their support. Acevo has already started. This will not be easy. When officials realize the implications they will fight it. However Nick Hurd did indicate at the great 3SC reception in the Commons on Wednesday that they will consider supporting this as it runs along Big Society lines.It was great to see Harriet Baldwin MP and my Vice Chair on the Social Investment Business eaking in support of the Bill and showing how SIB has been able to grow organisations to take advantage of public service reck through loans.

I'm lookin forward to a quiet weekend and getting over my grumpiness and illness. Have been causing havoc with my cold ( or cholera). I wasn't able to make the meeting of the DCLG third sector advisory group and they were most put out as they had provided biscuits just for me. And my Deputy, the wondrous Dr Kyle who went in my place found himself speaking to a paper I had asked for and on which he was somewhat less than well briefed by his hopeless Boss. I was then admonished by my brilliant Director of Strategy for off the cuff remarks that appear to have got into some media column ( don't know how that happened ).

But next week is another country. And I have had 2 brilliant ideas......

Charity Foundations damage the planet!

Been a bit of a Big Society week! Started off with a Joseph Rowntree Foundation dinner on Tuesday night at the RSA to discuss "The Big Society". A collection of media, bien pensants and other pundits discussing a Government policy that has yet to be adequately defined so that gave ample scope to the gathering to define it in ways that fitted each of our own hobby horses. A few insights amongst the genteel waffle though as my cold/cholera was making me grumpy I left early and bumped into no less than Sir Stuart himself wandering the streets! We had a rather amusing interchange on the subject of BigSoc but it would be most indiscreet to reveal more!

More BigSoc discussion on Wednesday when I had a meeting with my top 300 Members at CCLA. A fascinating account of the economic and political context of finances by their erudite CEO, Michael Quicke. He described the "difficult and dangerous economic climate" where ideology as well as economics is determining actions. He suggested that politics as much as economics determines policy. The key issues for our sector would be how far the gap between rich and poor expands and how far inequality grows between North and South. He suggested that the charity sector will do worse than the economy as a whole.

But against that background there are opportunities for growth and the trick for charities is to be open and up for the challenge. For example, there will be a once in a lifetime chance to acquire assets.

One of the issues we discussed was the need for the sector to provide scrutiny to what is going on when bodies like the Audit Commission will not be there to do so.

Then Thursday (wearing my smart Social Investment Business hat) I hosted a lunch at the Royal Commonwealth Society for charity Foundations. Lord Wei was our guest speaker and he did not disappoint. Once he had moved past the usual stuff on BigSoc he gave a very compelling and inspiring talk on the role for social finance and new forms of support and brokerage for our sector. I was stuck by his analogy with the Green Movement. Twenty years ago the Green issues were seen as at the fringe but now are seen as crucial to a sustainable future. He suggested that new forms of social investment are only emerging but will be seen as a crucial aspect of a growing civil society in the future. He is spot on.

And talking Green that led to a great debate on whether Foundations are doing more damage than good. They use their investments to support oil drilling and energy consumption. They have very poor climate or social checks on their investments. So making a few grants for sustainability projects against the background of their massive and bigger support for climate damage is bizarre.

And is it not bizarre that the Banks, who have huge experience in making loans, set up Foundations who then make grants not loans!

I used my Chair's stick to prod and poke them! I had started by quoting the Secretary of the Carnegie Trust speaking to the Nathan Committee in 1952 who said it is the job of Foundations "to live dangerously". Are they?

Of course I was partly just being provocative to spark discussion as the people we had were a great bunch and the role of grant making Foundations is a crucial one. But I hope they will start to think more about how they use their vast wealth to support more social investment and to look to a growing role for loans as well as grants.

One of those attending (he shall remain anonymous) suggested we needed an Enquiry into the Foundation sector, perhaps led by the Charity Commission (their anally retentive guidance is a key factor in encouraging climate damage by Foundations!).

It's an idea I shall pursue. And a final thought, contributed by Mark Campanale, who is setting up the Social Stock Exchange, who said how come the millions of third sector workers contribute their pension funds to climate damaging industry but not to social enterprise or socially responsible business!

Wednesday 17 November 2010

Any is more mutuals?

The Government have announced plans to encourage more spin-offs of public services through mutuals and cooperatives. Surely a greater diversity of providers of public services has to be a good thing. Whether that is the private sector, mutuals and cooperatives, third sector organisations, or partnerships between all of these, more diversity will inevitably bring better quality and more citizen focused services.

So well done to Francis Maude MP in terms of the announcement today. But I had a strange sense of "Déjà vu" as I listened to Francis in the shower this morning. He started talking about Central Surrey nurses. Where have we heard that before? I recall Tony Blair talking about them, and indeed Gordon Brown and Andy Burnham. They are of course wonderful, as everyone who knows what they have done will tell you.

The problem is that it is only Central Surrey. There is no Central Norfolk, Central Kent, Central Cornwall etc. The remarkable thing about this example is that it is so rare.

The Government simply have to understand why it is that if Central Surrey Nurses are such a brilliant example it hasn't happened elsewhere? Unless the Government understand the barriers to the creation of more Central Surreys they will not achieve their ambitions for more mutual spin-offs.

Let us be clear there are substantial barriers. And these barriers have increased for the last six months.

First of all there is a very simple problem that as soon as an organisation spins off from the public sector it incurs a VAT bill, shortly to be at 20%. It all also acquires various other costs that now become more transparent than they were when the particular unit in question was part of the public sector.

And for staff contemplating the establishment of a mutual they need to feel that there will be a continuity of contracts from public authorities. Experience of the last few months is hardly helpful. We have seen a string of public authorities, local Councils and Health Authorities trying to renege on contracts, revising the prices downwards and, in one disgraceful health example asking for the money back.

And as Francis Maude said this morning he would expect that any proposal for a new mutual would be framed as leading to a "substantial reduction in costs".

I think it would be great to see a flowering of more mutuals or social enterprises and it is something we very much support. Something that the Lambeth Cooperative Commission has been looking at. It should be encouraged. As with Francis I agree that there is huge professionalism and commitment amongst public sector workers but given the barriers, given the need to cut costs and the lack of incentives, I am not sure where this one will go.

Clearly ACEVO, and organisations like Allison Ogden-Newton's wonderful Social Enterprise London, will provide support and encouragement. Allison's organisation has provided a very useful Transition guide and I have been talking to her about how we might support the training of leaders in the public sector who want to make the transition to a different culture and different ownership form. The third sector has a lot to offer.

So will there be a rush to mutuals? I wonder?