Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Hurd and Members

A good positive first meeting with Nick Hurd, our Third Sector Minister, yesterday. Of course we have got to know him well since he took the brief in Opposition. I think the sector is lucky to have him there! But also to have a Cabinet Office team in Oliver Letwin and Francis Maude that have a proactive but sensible approach to our sector. Importantly they are all realists, so some of the current flights of fancy will quickly get grounded. And it's our job to make that happen. As Nick and I both agreed its the "How" question we need to address.

We concentrated on the transformation of public services through a massive expansion of third sector delivery and the barriers that lie in commissioning processes.

It was flattering to know that Nick had been reading the speech - and as he quoted from it I knew it was no mere politeness. We agreed that rocky times are ahead and cuts will be difficult; the message of the Cameron speech. We will have to be forthright in defending members. I certainly will be. A quiet Bubb is a concept unbeknown to the sector. But I am also clear that leading a third sector CEO body we work with Government to deliver better outcomes for our beneficiaries.

It was a shame that Nick though rather blotted his copy book in The Commons earlier today by suggesting Futurebuilders had "distorted the market". The independent evaluation of the programme by Sheffield Hallam showed there is no evidence for this claim. It's a shame this happened because The Social Investment business is crucial to growing sector capacity through capital acquisition. It makes "unbankable" loans so it does not displace commercial loans. It adds capacity. It is also about empowerment and helping the sector stand on its own two feet; moving from purely grant dependence.

So I see the SIB as a strong component of and supporter of Big Society. We empower community enterprise. 40% of our loans go to small charities and voluntary groups with a turnover of less than £500k. We work with parent led schools and have a huge track record in supporting welfare to work organisations to up scale. David Cameron spoke about the need for a better mix of loans and grants and sustainable funding. That's what we provide. So let's work together on this agenda!

Good today to have two great meetings with members. Lunch with Chris Manze of The Stone Soup Project. A real go-getting social entrepreneur. He knows scale is important and intends to grow. A name to watch. And then Sally Burton, CEO of The Shaw Trust. The Shaw Trust is the biggest provider in the sector of welfare to work services. They will be a key player in ideas and plans by David Freud in DWP to reform delivery. Good to have The Shaw Trust back in the ACEVO fold after previous upsets! Sally is a real pro. On top of her brief, passionate and determined to lead her organisation to deliver better results for clients and customers.

Then off to see Sue Slipman, an old friend and now CEO of the Foundation Trust Network. We are to have a "Big Society Tea" with leading CEOs from the two sectors to see how we're to develop a joint agenda on health. It will be fascinating!

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