Wednesday 15 September 2010

Local Enterprise partnerships, a voice for the disabled and Europe.

The replacements for the work of regional development agencies are to be local strategic partnerships. In theory a good this, but it is clear that as local authorities develop these they are forgetting or excluding the third sector. This is despite the growing economic power of the sector and the fact that a thriving third sector is crucial to a healthy and sustainable local community and economy.

As often, we are seen as the marginal; do-gooders or volunteers. Local Chambers of Commerce are particularly bad at this. They seem to think the third sector is where they buy their raffle tickets or organic jam. So our message has been to get a grip and involve us.

Yesterday in Leeds, we held a very useful and interesting roundtable discussion on the emerging policy, with ACEVO members, Local Authority and RDA leaders. The group was chaired by Tony Hawkhead from Groundwork UK, and joined by CLG’s LEP lead, who attempted to shed some light on the latest answer from a central Government to sub national governance.

Bids from over 60 Local Authority partnerships have now been submitted to CLG, (well above what they were expecting I understand) and will soon be scrutinized by the critical eye of my friend the formidable Eric Pickles. Worryingly, only a handful of these bids included a commitment to involving our sector, weighted in favour of the theory that economic development can only be achieved through private sector growth.

We are working with ippr north to look at how our sector can play it’s full role in LEPs, how we can win the argument by effectively demonstrating our economic impact, not simply demanding a place at the table because it is somehow our birth right.

ACEVO has already written to Mark Prisk at BIS and Greg Clark at CLG, to outline our concerns that the Government failed to include the third sector in it’s discussions with Local Authorities and business on the future of LEPs.

After an initially ambivalent response, we have since received assurances from Prisk that this will be further considered in the White Paper on sub-national growth. You might also be interested in reading our response to the consultation on the paradoxically named Regional Growth Fund, which was submitted to CLG at the beginning of this month.

Had a peaceful trip back on Eurostar (that meant I slept!) from our Brussels Euclid annual meeting. Pretty impressive to have secured Cathy Aston as the speaker! And she was very interested in Euclid's Erasmus Programme for Social Entrepreneurs across Europe. This is funded by the EU and uses peer learning networks to promote innovative leadership. See the Euclid network site for further details of this impressive and intriguing programme.

Click here

And a good meeting with one of my members who typifies a strong social entrepreneur, Jonathan Senker, who leads "Speaking Up". This is an organisation that supports disabled people to secure their rights and to promote their independence. They work one to one, but also promote collective voices.

They are one of those classic sector bodies that both gets funding from State bodies but acts on behalf of users to hassle the State to get a fair deal for the disabled. They are just one of the many bodies that face the effects of the forthcoming cuts. You could argue it is not a front line service. Yet it makes all the difference to a disabled person leading a better life.

And to those who say that philanthropy can fill the gap in funding when the State makes cuts, Jonathan Senker said they get 15% of their funding from giving and corporate support but there was no way they could realistically get a bigger share, let alone all of their funding. There should be great opportunities for Speaking Up to expand their crucial role. Let's hope further reforms to public services and commissioning will give them that chance to expand and grow. Good luck to them.

Well, all my invitations and protracted security details have arrived for the forthcoming Papal visit. I'm at two of the events: the official State Banquet in Lancaster house on Friday and then the Vigil in Hyde Park. These will be fascinating though the security instructions for Hyde Park are thoroughly off-putting. I don't remember any of this when John Paul II was here in '82. I have been issued with strict instructions from Filippo to talk to various of the Cardinals in the Seguito at the dinner to discuss plans for the audience of Euclid with the Pope which is currently under discussion. That would be a remarkable event, though it apparently takes many moons to plan!

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