Wednesday, 27 October 2010

James, Margo, Francis and Pay

Well, that was all most interesting. A day of meetings, topped, so to speak, when James Purnell popped in for coffee. He was looking grand and clearly enjoying life outside the Whitehall hothouse. He is Chairing Ippr, the think tank, and we talk abut Government plans on service reform and BigSoc. We both agree that BigSoc has much to offer our sector; indeed if this project fails it damages us, so it may need rescuing from the anarchists. I refer of course to my friend Francis Maude MP who was telling the NY Times that,

"This will be very messy. This will be quite anarchic... this will not be neat."

This is fine in an Oxford tutorial, or in Opposition, but in Government you need to articulate and spell out your framework and parameters. Failure to do so allows others, the non anarchists, to define it for you and in ways that may not help. I don't quite understand Francis. A top class politician, practical and pragmatic, with a great brain and experience. Tories are supposed to be in favour of order and establishment, not anarchy!

There is also perhaps a glaring inconsistency in promoting one of the BigSoc major initiates which is clearly not anarchic and is very neat; that's the NCS, where a top down, centrally driven and one size fits all approach is favoured. So Francis, kick the anarchy; it doesn't suit you! On with the tie, out with the chaos.

Margo Horsley is a delight. I knew her when she was a key advisor at the Charities Board back In the 90s. She now runs the Public Service Broadcasting Trust. They organise the ITV Fixers. This is a scheme (funded by V) that encourages young people to volunteer, or rather as they put it "to take action on any issue they feel strongly about- changing things for the better". And every month there is a slot on the ITV regional news for a young person to talk about their cause. More than 4000 young people have taken part and there has been some compelling TV.

This illustrates the power and potential of volunteering. Government sometimes fails to recognise that most people volunteer to take action, to campaign, to stop bad things happening and to demand a better world. Yet when Ministers talk, it's often about helping our neighbours. Not that that is bad, it's just it fails to excite and to undermine the real impulse towards volunteering. In fact in a strange sort of way I suspect the cuts will generate a rise in volunteering as people organise communities to oppose cuts that damage the social fabric of the nation.

Colin Jones is one of LDA and the Mayor of London's advisors on the third sector. Also known from Charity Board days! We were talking London's role in promoting a strong third sector economy and have some ideas! I'm going to work with him on this, though as I said if it's about an old fashioned cosy view of our sector, at the margins doing "good things" that can be patronised, then count me out.

The evening drew to a close with th launch of the ACEVO's annual Pay Survey. There were two key messages from this year.

1. Frugality. The salaries of charity leaders have remained roughly static for the third year running. The survey of 763 chief executives, said the median average pay in 2010 is £57,974 - only £734 more than it was three years ago. In contrast, median average pay rose rapidly from £48,500 to £57,240 between 2004 and 2007.

2. Professional Development. The survey contained worrying findings about the level of investment in professional development. Sixty-one per cent of chief executives said that they didn't have any personal development plans in place and a quarter did not receive an appraisal. Our Director of Strategy, Seb Elsworth's quote in Third Sector bears this out. "There is a concern that professional development is being neglected when chief executives have to lead the sector through a difficult time".

David Fielding from Tribal, who sponsor the Survey, gave a sparkling speech complementing the sector on restraint and its values. The issue for me though is that we must never compromise on our drive for a professional sector and that means professional levels of pay. Our CEOs salaries are still, on average, some £20-30k less than equivalents in the public sector. It's not as though the job is any easier! Far from it.

And continuing with the volunteering theme, an interesting chat with Derek Twine, the impressive CEO of the Scouts. He has been in post for all the time I've been at ACEVO so he is a seasoned hand! He tells me The Home Office are looking at the issue of charges for charities to get CRB checks. The Scouts have to do 60,000 checks a year. They are necessary and important. If they are charged it will cost the Scouts a cool £2.75m pa. That will drive a coach and horses through any attempts to increase volunteering as part of BigSoc. So Theresa, you may have had a bad settlement but don't do that!

And so now I'm off to Charlbury. To the Doctors. Of course our great GPs haven't quite got the customer focus yet that enables you to go out of office hours. When will that change I wonder? I'm having my annual Flu jab (have you had yours?) and my diabetes check up. Wish me well!

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