Wednesday 3 March 2010

Special interest and Boris

A lunch meeting in the office with all the Chairs of our Special Interest Groups. We cover a great range in these thirteen different groups; from crime to health, women's and black and Asian groups, culture and heritage to faith, sustainability, young CEOs and more. These are largely member driven (with a supporting staff member) and are partly a network, partly lobbying and policy development.

We have a good discussion on how to develop this part of ACEVO's work. There is a great feeling of camaraderie in the group as well as a commitment to do more to develop what I see as one of ACEVO's "hidden treasures".

During the day there is much to-ing and fro-ing on our campaign to end the disgraceful Burnham policy of the "NHS as preferred provider". We have been exerting much pressure behind the scenes to get this policy scrapped or seriously modified. We have had some success. But yesterday we were supposed to hear a decision from the DH Competition Panel on our complaint against the discriminatory practice of one PCT who ditched a tender process so stopping bids from the third sector. They have delayed the decision "in the light of new information" we are told. Something fishy going on is my immediate response.

It's essential that the sector has an organisation like ACEVO able to fight a Government when it tries to undermine the sector. And when others preach about independence, usually from a comfortable armchair on the sidelines, ACEVO gets stuck in and proves we are!

Indeed it is clear that without the doughty action of ACEVO and the NHS Partners Network this policy u-turn would have gone unnoticed and unchannelled. I know that our health members, who have been furious about this, are giving us 100% backing to challenge this every inch of the way to the ballot box. And beyond.

So mobile phone hot from calls I arrive at The Mansion House to celebrate 100 years of the London Voluntary Service Council. It is brillliantly led by ACEVO member Peter Lewis (an old and valued friend). He appears sans tie, but as I comment at least he isn't in sandals! Stuart is there and admires my tie which he thinks is an off cut of my curtain material. And Wanless Big Boss appears in a tie that is so undistinguished he might not have bothered (even though he insisted on showing me the "Cardin" label).

It's a grand occasion and the champagne is dispensed in flutes so large they must have accommodated at least a third of a bottle! City largesse! Get it while you can! Great to see so many of my members. And great to chat to Boris.

A good friend of mine, Matthew Leeming is an old Oxford friend of Boris. Indeed they set up a tile company together. My Charlbury kitchen is adorned with said tiles! Matthew is also the greatest authority on tourism in Afghanistan and has written the most up to date guide on the country. Some information gathered whilst enveloped in a burka. So we swap stories of Matthew before I depart. Boris gives, as always, an amusing and trenchant speech.

Home to tackle emails. Goodness I feel whacked. But for a great cause!

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