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.

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