Monday 31 January 2011

Don't you dare!

A shocking story in the Sunday Times which suggests that the Government have reviewed the contract of Dame Suzi Leather because of her outspoken comments on issues like public schools and the cuts. The report says,

"She should be given some time to prove she can work constructively with us," said a Government source. "But her appointment is in the gift of the Secretary of State. He can terminate it. We want to see a different approach at the Charity Commission and an end to the politically motivated statements."

Well, just you dare. Suzi has the confidence of the sector. We applaud her for speaking about how cuts are damaging charities. That is her job. She is not a Government stooge. The idea that the appointment of the Chair of the Charity Commission should be dependent on the political whims of a Government Minister is disgraceful.

I shall be seeing Francis Maude and Nick Hurd later and shall ask for a denial. We need to beware. As things start getting nastier we can expect more attacks from unnamed sources. The snide remarks about big charities are but a start. But members will always be able to rely on ACEVO to speak out. Any members who have any pressure applied should contact me. I'll be watching this one carefully.

Friday 28 January 2011

Robert Halfon, Douglas, Nick and Lambeth...

Well, Robert Halfon MP turns out to be not quite the caricature I had imagined from my reading of the PASC hearing. I go to met him at The Commons to talk through the issues and we had a good exchange of views. He is clearly someone who has a strong interest and commitment in our sector. He was upset that I had misattributed a view to him that charities campaign and "don't do a lot". He was right that I had misquoted him so I said my Blog would put the record straight - important as my Blog is becoming the official record of events in our dear sector.

We had a good discussion on accountability. He said that if charities campaign and spend large amounts on advertising (a practise I strongly defended) then this should be very clear in their accounts and reports. I think this is right. We are sometimes a little coy on such matters. Trying to hide our administrative costs in case the,"I want every penny of my pound spent on starving babies" brigade complain. We should be upfront and clear about what we spend and WHY. Otherwise we will never convince people that volunteering is not a free good, or that medical aid arrives in Africa at the wave of a CEO's magical wand. It was good to have an interchange and I was pleased he got in touch. It is crucial we debate these issues and expose them to scrutiny.

I went from Robert to listen to that wonderful old statesman Douglas Hurd, once my MP and now a Lord. He was talking on Lords reform and its historical context. An evolutionary approach which preserves the practise of putting people with wisdom and experience into the second chamber. Hear hear I say in an obviously disinterested way. As David said, it was a bit like an induction session.....

David Fielding, the headhunter never at a loss for opportunities to network, had taken me to this event, the Mile End Club organised by St Mary's College and Chaired by Peter (now Lord) Hennessey.

Amusingly, over drinks with Hurd senior afterwards my phone rings and it is Hurd junior. I tell Pa that son is making a good fist at the sector job and has won many friends. Now all he needs to do is stop the cuts.

Yesterday was the sector appearance before the Bill Committee of the Commons on the Localism bill. The two sector knights doing battle on the side of righteousness and supported by our good friend Neil Cleeveley from NAVCA. I like MPs, they are a good bunch, united in their desire to better the country. I don't buy into the "they're corrupt and useless" lobby. But they do sometimes need a spot of education. That's what they got from us. I have to admit I enjoyed the session. I've never been one to be overawed by the majesty of Parliament and meekly submissive at Committees. My tip to anyone appearing at a Select Committee etc is; enjoy it. You know more than them. Stand no nonsense. One MP who suggested that it was bad that Councils were having to sack Council staff working in community development. I suggested that actually we need people working in third sector organisations not in Town Halls. And we can often deliver services more cost effectively and closer to communities

I'm now blogging from Coin Street, where the Lambeth Co- operative Commission final report is being launched. Entitled,"The Co-operative Council; sharing power; a new settlement between citizens and the State."

In a real sense this is a report that embodies the principle of the Localism Bill. A partnership approach between a local authority and the citizen and community. Empowering the third sector to act and deliver and, crucially to represent the voiceless and powerless and protect the vulnerable.

And when I finish here I'm off to lunch with Sir Stuart. Good food and wine and sorting the sector....then it's the weekend.

Wednesday 26 January 2011

More Attacks on charity!

What is going on? Another attack on charities in The Times Letter column, this time from a Conservative MEP, Syed Kamall. This is beginning to look like a concerted campaign to attack the charity sector for daring to speak out about cuts.

The letter is headed "Charity Quangos". It makes the ludicrous claim that, "a number of charities have become clients of the State, little more than quangos running publicity campaigns, rather than agents of change."

Anyone who actually knows the work of the big charities delivering key services knows this is nonsense. In fact great charities like Action for Children, Barnardo's, the Children's Society, Turning Point, Tomorrow's People, St Giles Trust, Addaction... the list goes on, have been responsible for major advances and innovation in delivering public services. Mental health charities, largely funded through contract work by Health Authorities and Councils, have revolutionised our treatment in tackling mental illness. The disability charities have pioneered better ways to support and treat disability. The list of charity innovation is long and splendid. It is right the State has supported this, often because it has been more cost effective.

And anyone who knows the Chief Executives of these charities knows they are no gutless quangocrats.

That is why Messrs Lansley, Ken Clarke, Greg Clark, Ian Duncan Smith, Michael Gove, for example, are seeking a major expansion of delivery of State funded services by charities. So is Mr Kamall telling his Conservative colleagues they are wrong? Is he saying they should be withdrawing contracts from these charities? Does he want them to provide less? Not take up the challenge of the Prime Minister to help reform public services by more contracts for delivery?

Is he worried that Capita and Serco are now also quangos because they get something like 90% of their funding from the State?

But what is chilling about this letter is what it reveals about some politicians views that Big Society is in fact about the withdrawal of State funding. In reality, turning back the clock to providing key welfare services by private philanthropy rather than through taxation. Whilst the Prime Minister has been explicit in his view that Big Society is not about the State withdrawing, this is not the view of Mr Kamall.

He says, "the attacks on Big Society from some charity leaders... (perhaps he means me though if he does he has clearly not actually read what I have said!).. stem from their unwillingness to accept greater responsibility without money from the State in return."

So presumably charities being urged to provide a major expansion of support for rehabilitation to cut the prison population should be bidding for the contracts for free? Or charities wanting to run DWP work programme should do so on the basis they don't want any money but will go and fund raise,(though obviously the private firms, or private quangos as we must call them bidding will get paid.)

So Mr Kamall believes that, "the point of the Big Society is that the State should not be the primary agent, nor a funder of change. A smaller State should leave space for voluntary action and social co-operation to tackle problems that affect communities. Many charities need to be weaned off State dependency".

Is the mask slipping? Back to Victorian philanthropy. Our welfare services now to be provided through private donations, not the taxpayer. Meals on wheels provided only in areas where the charity is able to fund raise.

The logic of this argument is obvious; much of the work of our great national charities would cease. Hospices would close. Work with the jobless cut. The mentally ill left in communities unsupported. All these services run on contract for the State.

The truth is that the MPs who seem to delight in attacking charities are unlikely to win over the masses. The public trust us. Pick a fight with us by all means. But the charity sector has been around for a thousand years, delivering public services. The public don't like the cuts being made to charities. Suggesting we need more, not less cuts will not go down well. Remember there are millions of people who are members of the charities you are now slandering by calling them quangos!

Tuesday 25 January 2011

The "Cap Doffing Charity" and the Public Administration Select Committee

I have now read the full transcript of the oral evidence session held by the PASC.

It is deeply depressing. On pretty much every issue which for our sector has been fighting over the last few years in order for us to modernise and better reach those who need us, MPs are saying shocking things campaigning is wrong, taking public money makes you an arm of the State, social investment is a gimmick/wrong, charity CEOs are Fat Cats, bla bla)

The depth of the prejudice and the length of the stereotype would be laughable if these MPs were not conducting a serious study into sector funding at a time when we face a rising storm of cuts, more cost and higher demand.

I have dealt with the absurd argument that taking money for contracts means you are nationalised in previous blogs. Now let me turn to campaigning.

Apparently a number of the MPs on the Committee think that good charities don't campaign. The fact is that this view simply ignores the fundamentals of charity history.

The academic Robert Puttnam (a favourite of David Cameron) in his superb studies of civil society makes the important point that it is the role of civil society in advocacy and campaigning that marks a truly democratic society. In countries where there is a weak civil society despots rule. Look at what is happening to NGOs in Russia.

Our glorious charity history in the UK is marked out by campaigns against injustice. Look at the campaign against slavery. The thousands of citizens who campaigned for change against a corrupt and immoral establishment involvement in a disgusting trade in humans. It was the work of civil society, ably corralled by William Wilberforce that secured the change in law to prohibit slavery in the British Empire.

Look at the brilliant work of the RSPCA (founded by an enlightened Tory MP) to root out cruelty to animals and campaign for law change. And those good folks then went on to found the NSPCC. A marvellous organisation, but one singled out by one Tory MP as a bad charity because it campaigns.

And here their logic gets chopped. They think you should not take too much money from the State but are unaware that NSPCC is very largely supported by voluntary donation. People who abhor child abuse and so support the "Full Stop campaign". Thanks goodness for charities like the NSPCC and their vigorous advocacy. Over the last century and a half their campaigns have led to law change that makes Britain a better place. That role must continue. And must be supported.

The MPs single out Shelter. This is a campaigning charity founded by that fiery Notting Hill Priest, the Rev Kendrick. Appalled by the behaviour of Rackman he decided to do something practical about it; found a housing trust to provide homes and set up Shelter to campaign for law change to prevent landlord abuse. They succeeded; they roused the conscience of the nation. But their continuing work in highlighting the consequences of homelessness remains as important as ever. As homelessness rises thank goodness for Shelter and our many homeless charities in fighting to highlight the scandal of homelessness and in campaigning for change.

Christian Aid comes in for criticism from certain MPs. The major crime here appears to be the 21st century CEO using a digital signature, rather than, presumably her quill pen.

It is core to our charitable function that we campaign. We must speak truth to power. Never be content to provide soup for the poor without demanding changes to the conditions that lead to poverty. It is a role we cherish and have used to success over the centuries. Charity in this country has its roots in our Christian heritage. It is a tradition rooted in Christ's own teaching and actions. He campaigned; turfing the money changers from the Temple, castigating the rich, championing excluded minorities. It is a tradition mirrored in Islam. Good job he was not in front of the PASC!

It is why we are never content to simply alleviate the consequences of poverty but demand legislative change. To deplore that tradition as a number of MPs did at that evidence session is to challenge our charity legacy and to undermine our democratic traditions. Robert Halfon MP asked if they thought it fair that NSPCC, Barnardos and Shelter receive money, "when they don't actually do anything"!! They "spend most of their huge budgets on campaigning"!! Warming to this theme, Mr Elphike MP talked of charities "just advertising and talking about it". He went on to complain about "charities living off the fat of the land". And not content with this slander he goes on to complain about charity CEOs getting paid. "Some CEOs earn more than £120,000 and some even more and people think, well that is not really volunteering, that's like an industry and a business "!

Oh dear, oh dear.

I don’t think we should go to far out of our way to try to explain how the views of these MPs could be so far away from an understanding of the modern enterprising third sector. However it is worth thinking about whether the sector has something of a role itself to correct some of these misconceptions. A couple of years ago ACEVO with the ImpACT coalition undertook some research with YouGov which showed that the public’s knowledge and understanding of the sector is a long way away from how the modern sector is operating. Part of the cause we attributed to this was that charities are often not telling the public what they are really doing but continuing to fuel myths such as we give all out money to the front line and don’t spend anything on administration. I am not sure that the sector’s own contributions to the debate in PASC helped to dispel any myths.

It would appear from the session that what a number of MPs actually want is a "cap doffing charity". One that does not take money from the State, knows its place in society and never criticises, never complains (and certainly doesn't write letters that are not signed with a fountain pen), but meekly accepts the crumbs that fall from the rich man's table. Essentially a non national, non campaigning charity, preferably where the CEO is a volunteer.

I have now written to Bernard Jenkin MP, the Chair of the Committee to ask for a session to put the record straight. And I shall be writing to said named MPs asking them to meet with our modern day, enterprising third sector CEOs for a spot of debate and exchange of views.

And if you think I'm exaggerating all this just read the transcript of oral evidence yourself and be appalled. And be warned; this is a sign of the attacks we will face when we continue to highlight the consequences of spending cuts.

Monday 24 January 2011

Arms and Church

Thursday morning saw a rather different type of meeting; at the College of Arms! I was there to meet Clarenceux King of Arms to discuss what might be appropriate as a newly knighted coat of arms. As it happens Patric Dickinson, who holds this illustrious post, is an old friend from Oxford. He suggests that though some people like to incorporate a play on their name in their Arms he was not sure a champagne bottle was on their approved list(though appropriate as it was as he recalled!).

Patric Dickinson, Clarenceux King of Arms at the College of Arms

In fact I am going for historic connections, particularly with the Limrick name. My ancestor Sir Edward Neville, knighted by Henry V111 and then beheaded for his adherence to the Catholic faith, seems a rather good role model. Speaking truth to power!

My Open Letter to the Prime Minister in The Times today is a good example of that "truth speaking" role that I continue. Here it is;

Dear Prime Minister,

I salute the concept of "Big Society". It has focused attention on the work of charities and community organisations; our role in supporting the poor and vulnerable and in building a better society and a country at ease with itself. This is a noble aim. But I am worried that your great ideal is about to be swamped by a growing tidal wave of growing needs and rising cuts.

Do you realise the perfect storm that confronts our country's charities? Rising costs, higher tax bills because you have raised VAT and are removing gift aid transitional reliefs, on top of swinging cuts in funding. This is impairing our ability to support those most in need. As we face cuts, we also face increased demand for our services. Every cut has a consequence. And those consequences are being played out in the lives of individuals and on the streets of our communities. You saw this yourself recently in the tragic case of the disabled child denied caring support. That was but the tip of the iceberg to confront our sector.

Big Society has for too long been promoted as a Utopian ideal with calls for more giving and more volunteering. But the reality is the hard grind of charities trying to provide services for more, against cuts in their funding.

So is it a surprise that people now see "Big Society" as more a soundbite than Programme for Government? The rising tide of cynicism in our charity and voluntary sector may overwhelm what ought to mark a renaissance for civil society, unless you act.

What should you do? First you must halt the rising tide of cuts. Indeed reverse it; invest more in our sectors' brilliant ability to provide more cost effective and citizen focused public services. Take a bold step in establishing a Big Society Bank with billions of pounds, not pennies, to build a resilient charity sector. Work with our established sector instead of bypassing and ignoring us.

My challenge for you would be to spend a week running one of the countries top charities; confronting the reality of the demands we face in the face of swinging cuts. In Barnardos or Shelter, for example; see the reality of trying to provide for a better society,when the State is withdrawing it's funding. Big Society is hitting the buffers. Rescue it

As you see my "open letter" suggests the PM should spend a week running a charity like Shelter or Barnardo's. The joke round the office is that Cameron has agreed - but wants to do it at ACEVO. And it's a full on job swap. I'll run the country for a week. Good idea me thinks!!!

I managed to produce this after a rather splendid Sunday lunch I has laid on for two old friends, John Rafferty and Stephen Shields. I had met them for Mass at St Marys's Church, Clapham. John, a distinguished organist was playing and Stephen was singing.

John Rafferty was a colleague from the Charities Board days; he was the Scotland Director. Stephen was the guy who ran the brilliant "Awards for all" scheme which was based on a quick and simple process to get money out to charities pronto and without fuss. Stephen now runs that superb charity, "Shine". SHINE is a dynamic young charity set up to fund educational support programmes for children and young people from the most disadvantaged parts of London and Manchester. It works by funding best practice educational support projects to ensure that the participants can have choice and control in their lives. (John is now more widely known for his walking guides to pilgrimages, particularly to Santiago de Compostela.)

St Mary's Clapham, which is in the very Ward I used to represent when I was on Lambeth Council many a moon ago, is a splendid Redemptorist Church and Monastery. It has various charitable activities attached, like a great charity shop and work with the homeless. The Redemptorists are known for their outreach into the community and their down to earth, no nonsense approach to accepting people as they are and on their own terms. A very third sector style, I think.

And it proved useful having them at lunch in Clinks as I get the call from that marvellous journalist, Sam Coates, Deputy Political Editor of The Times, asking me to consider an article on the problems that the "Big Society" concept faces in the storm of cuts. Glad we had demolished the Boeuf Bourguignon before I got cracking writing it!

Wednesday 19 January 2011

An irritating PAC !

The Public Administration Committee have had an un-illuminating session on funding the sector. What seriously irritated was the usual nostrums about proportions of state funding meaning we are no longer charities . There was one MP who even made the clearly illogical statement that charities who get most of their funding from the state have been nationalised. And I won't even go into the usual canards being trotted around the committee room on administration , advertising ( shock horror ) and , perish the thought , campaigning! Let's deal with what I see as a dangerous and pernicious argument on " state funding". It is time we stopped the sneering about this and worried about where these arguments can lead.

Could said MP who thinks some charities have been nationalised also explain to me if he thinks that major private sector companies like Capita , Serco or A4E have been nationalised because they too get most of their funding from state contracts?

It is time this argument was dealt with by us , rather than appearing apologetic . I regret that we can sometimes be complicit in a train of thought that leads us backwards to Victorian concepts of charity and away from our modern day enterprising third sector.

So let us be clear . Our sector has been delivering services to the homeless , to children , to the poor and unemployed for centuries. Indeed charities were the public service for hundreds of years. We now accept that the State should provide welfare services to all , often at the point of need and not for those who can afford to pay. We believe as a country that our children deserve support and succour. The old should not suffer the deprivations of age simply because they cannot afford to pay . We believe that many of these services should be paid for by us all through taxation. We also believe that often these services cam ne better provided through charities and social enterprises. Our role in delivering good services , on contract , has grown. Rightly so. Receiving money for a contract to deliver services does not turn the charity into an arm of the State , anymore than it does for SERCO or the thousands of private sector companies also delivering public services.

And does the fact that Barnadoes or Action for Children or Tomorrows People or Turning Point derive most of their income from contracts turn them into limp wrested apologists of Government ? Anyone who knows those CEOs know how silly that is.

What is key is that organisations have sustainable and varied income streams. So Barnadoes have contracts across many parts of Government and local councils. They also fund raise. Trying to set artificial limits on how much a charity should receive from contracting , as opposed to Fundraising , is a dangerous path to follow. I am always astonished by those in our sector who think that getting.grants is OK but contracts not. Or that there is something inherently virtuous about not receiving state funding. When I hear the sector leader who proudly boasts they receive no money from the State, I think , why not ? We have a democratically elected Government who use tax money for the public benefit. This is not Russia or Zimbabawe where state money may be tainted. it is not yet a sin to take money from our Government in pursuit of our goal to help our beneficiaries. The idea that there is something inherently dodgy about taking a contract from Government to provide homes or jobs to those in need does a disservice to all those of our beneficiaries who rely on us to support them. If you apply this argument to it's logical conclusion then a charity that got to the point where it might have a majority of funding from contracts or grants would then have to refuse to help people unless they could replace contracts with donations.

What I find particularly worrying about these claims , is the idea that great charities should somehow withdraw from delivering , say , children's services for Government and now rely on private donations. When I read the blogs of people like Tim Mongomerie , the Tory blogger , or hear these calls from various MPs, what I suspect is they may really want is a return to Victorian philanthropy , where the State withdraws and if you are poor or oppressed you rely on the whims of private donors. Perhaps I am too harsh. Perhaps they have simply not thought this through.

Let us also remember there are services that the State funds which simply would not get funding elsewhere. Vital support for asylum seekers or excluded communities. One lesson we must all remember is that we have a richly diverse sector. One rule and approach for one charity is not right for another. We must celebrate those charities that have grown and expanded , delivering more contracts from the State to help their beneficiaries. Good luck to them. The current Government reform programme will expect this to grow. And acevo will push for that to happen.

I regret that these arguments were not as fully rehearsed in the Public Administration Committee as they deserved to be. Let me at them.........


Bankers and Community organisers!

Well, it was into the Lions' Den yesterday. A meeting with Angela Knight of the British Bankers Association. Proved a fruitful meeting as we talked though where things are at on the Big Society Bank. From everything she told me it looks like this important new initiative is going to be too small scale. A worry.

I'm worried that the Government, which has been placing a lot of emphasis on the Bank, does not realise it's potentially going to appear a damp squib. So unless the PM can deliver the commercial banks to put proper loan funds into the Bank it is going to just fuel cynicism in our sector.

The need for access to capital is crucial for growth. It's crucial for third sector bodies who want to grow and compete big time. Of course we need important new ways of funding like impact bonds but we also need straightforward loans. As I am tired of repeating when the Government mistakenly closed Futurebuilders applications were running at between £60-90m A MONTH. These are for loans the banks won't touch. And yet the FBE default rate is at around only 2%! The new bank will have only around £60m to start off. Is that BIG? Hardly. And I doubt the Government want jibes about the small society bank.

I could not be a stronger supporter of the new Bank but unless it gets access to a £2 billion pot it cannot make the difference we want.

My discussions with Angela rather confirmed my concern about size. But the good news is that we are planning a round table to discuss this all further.

I also had a couple of replies from the letters I had written to the big four bank CEOs. The CEO of Lloyds couldn't be bothered to reply himself so I got the usual brush off letter from the "Executive Assistant". Hardly impressive. However the CEO of RBS, Stephen Hester, did respond and took the trouble to deal with the issues I had raised. I'm following through with our good friend Hugh Biddell later today.

The banks could be really crucial lenders to the sector. The experience of the States is that social lending and loans to the third sector can be profitable for both parties. So we do need to work with the banks to see how we can make the case. Persuade them to lend to the sector. To finance our growth in the light of service delivery opportunities for the sector.

This is the big frontier for charities and social enterprises. It would be good if the banks realised there is an opportunity to work with us, not in the usual patronising CSR way but as commercial propositions. We need to move beyond being patronised.

I was delighted to see that Sir Stuart has joined with me in calling on the bankers who receive big bonuses to think about how to donate some of that to charity. We need to ramp up giving in this country. When the two sector Knights call on the banks to take arms on behalf of the poor let's hope they respond generously, as many (but not enough) have in the past.

Debra Alcock-Tyler has written a splendid article in Third Sector on how Government is reinventing the wheel with their community organisers plans. There isn't anyone in our sector who thinks these plans are sensible. Instead of building on what is there already. Building on the wisdom and experience of the community sector and its splendid umbrella bodies like the Community Alliance they go for a year zero approach. It's the problem with all new Governments. Labour was the same in '97. It's got to be new and shiny. All the century of experience of community development is consigned to the "old hat" tray. Read her article.

Monday 17 January 2011

Blue Monday!

Apparently it's the most dismal day of the year - according to The Today programme this morning and it certainly feels it.

I was off in the pouring rain to listen to the PM's speech on health service reform at the RSA. I've already blogged on this, and indeed done a piece for The Telegraph! Of course this reform is controversial. It is a gamble. It takes place in uncertain financial climes. But it could herald a new relationship with our third sector. It is going to happen and so we need to ensure it rolls out in a way that enhances our role to deliver services and promote the voice of patients.

He spoke about the importance of public health and the need for preventative measures in the face of rising problems like growing long term conditions. He spoke of the important and valuable role of charities and social enterprises. He made a point that previous Governments had failed - the Tories because they were too pro private sector and Labour as they were too pro state. What is needed? (I wondered if he would say "a third way" but he didn't!). He says we want more of us involved. We must take up that challenge.

We need to empower citizens and grow the role of our sector.

I asked the PM how he was planning to promote the role of charities and social enterprises in the reforms, as otherwise the private sector may win out. He made clear his strong support for an expanded role and talked of the great work of organisations like Marie Curie and made the killer argument that what patients want is a superb service, nor worrying about who delivers it. He is right.

A very strong performance from Cameron and a powerful speech. It could almost have been Tony Blair speaking!

Thursday 13 January 2011

Health reforms ; put us central stage!

Andrew Lansley’s health reforms go before Parliament next week; a far-reaching upheaval, taking place against the background of the deepest cuts in public spending for 30 years. It is undoubtedly a gamble. But the prize is worth the risk.

The most exciting aspect of these changes is the opportunity for the Third Sector to play a far greater role in delivering health care and promoting the citizen's voice. There is great potential for the creation of new employee-owned organisations and social enterprises and expanding charity delivery of servcies.In 2007/08, the NHS spent just 0.05 per cent of its healthcare budget on voluntary organisations. It is, in other words, a virtually untapped resource waiting to be used. The third sector can compete against the private and statutory sectors, thereby freeing up NHS staff and delivering better care for the public.

But there are many vested interests – principally the health service unions – that will have none of this. They say the reforms are ideologically driven, essentially privatisation by another name. Competition, their argument goes, will benefit the shareholders of multinational private companies and should be opposed by anyone who cares about NHS patients and staff.Of course we all have an interest in arguing for proper funding for our NHS and for protecting it's essential core values of access for all , based on need not wealth. The third sector is a strong supporter of our NHS. We worry that the budgets for our health services ,set against rising demand will cause major problems for the many beneficiaries we serve. But these reforms,if carried out in a way that uses our third sector can make it stronger.

Competition in the NHS means British Red Cross volunteers being able to help more people adapt to life back at home after a lengthy spell in hospital, so preventing the need for readmission. Those who are supported in this way are often aged over 65 and have experienced a fall. Volunteers bring them home, settle them in, advise neighbours or relatives of their return, check on pets, help prepare a meal and make a further home visit the next day to ensure they are safe and well. Such schemes can save the typical NHS commissioner up to £1 million a year.

Competition means an environmental charity like BTCV running more "Green Gyms", which give people a physical work-out while taking part in environmental projects. So far, more than 10,000 people – often referred by their GPs – have taken part in this activity. An evaluation found that the positive impact on mental and physical health, not to mention the acquisition of new skills, means the state saves £153 for every £100 it invests. On top of that, it has a positive impact on local communities and the environment. Do we want less of this, or more? To me – and I suspect most of us – the answer is obvious. The people who rely most on the NHS are the vulnerable, the very people, indeed, who charities were set up to help precisely because they were let down by the status quo.

So if third sector organisations like the Red Cross and BTCV can do a better job then we should let them. We also need charities and community organisations to work more closely with GPs – who will be taking over responsibility for commissioning services - to ensure that they use the third sector more and are aware of what it can offer. These reforms could herald a new and dynamic relationship between local GPs and charities that both deliver good services and act as a powerful voice for patients.I spoke to a group of GPs lat week. They were enthusiastic to develop community leadership , to work with the many health charities and to commission services from us. But let's be c
Ear it will be along and difficult road in making that happen and it poses challenges for our sector and for GPs.

One of the crucial role that third sector bodies play is to represent the people who rely on public services, especially those whose voices are not otherwise heard – the elderly and isolated, the mentally ill, ethnic minority communities - and ensure that the NHS responds to their needs and not just those with sharp elbows. We can promote innovation and quality. The health service unions may ne on the wrong side of this argument; but to make the most of the opportunities Lansley must commit himself to bold and practical reform, He has outlined his plans for more competition to deliver NHS services; now he needs to make that competition fair, tackling hard issues like the distortions created by the tax and pensions systems. Furthermore, he needs to make sure that when GPs take over the commissioning of NHS care, they understand the enormous potential offered by the country’s charities and social enterprises.

These are the issues we need to deal with now to make the NHS properly responsive to the needs of the citizen. The obsession with “privatisation” is yesterday’s debate. Giving the third sector a bigger role is tomorrow's.

Wednesday 12 January 2011

VAT- there is hope!

Lunch today with the brilliant Tom Flood, CEO of BTCV and ACEVO board-member. Tom has been a great friend of ACEVO over the years.

There has been a lot of noise in the media of late about VAT and the impact on charities, with Sue Ryder Care pointing out that the VAT rise will cost them over 1 million. Tom’s organization will be hit too, and we ruminated over the many years of campaigning that ACEVO and others have done on the subject. Governments have long known VAT hits our sector unfairly, but none have grasped the nettle and dealt with the problem.

Now however the pressure is growing. The VAT rise will cost us nearly 150 million. But it is also a major impediment to the Government’s public service plans. They want more third sector delivery – but whereas public sector agencies get their VAT rebated from HMT, we get nothing, making us look as if we cost more (in fact, of course, it’s not as if the taxpayer doesn’t pay for the HMT rebate). They want public sector staff to form new independent mutuals and social enterprises – but who in their right mind would if it meant kissing goodbye to a VAT rebate potentially worth hundreds of thousands of pounds!

So I’ve been raising the volume on this, raising it at every opportunity – not just with Treasury ministers but across the piece. This is not a geeky tax issue. If ministers are interested in public services, they need to be interested in this, as I shall be saying to Francis Maude when I see him tomorrow. And I sense we’re making progress. Tomorrow the treasury will answer a question on charity VAT from Aidan Burley MP in the Commons. I look forward to the response!!

Vote for the bills!

Hazel Blears has tabled a private members bill to increase the ability of our sector to access much needed capital from the banks.
Her private member's bill has cross-party support and MPs from the three main parties have backed a private member's bill designed to increase support from banks for loans to the third sector.

Blears tabled the Banking and Financial Services (Community Investment) Bill late last year, and it is scheduled for its second reading in March.Under the bill, a new as yet unspecified "voluntary mechanism" would be set up to enable banks, building societies and other financial service providers to help community groups by donating money and allowing staff to do more voluntary work.

Blears acknowledged that many banks already supported charities and community groups with donations and employee volunteering. But she said that a formal mechanism to facilitate this would put pressure on them to do more. That is essential. We know from the work of the Social Investment Business that banks are hugely risk averse to third sector organisations. The near banking collapse has made matters worse. A voluntary mechanism, once some banks signed up, others would feel obliged to do the same, it must be right that the bankers who look now like they will receive huge bonuses, should do more to support communities that need help.

Let's hope this Bill gets real support. David Cameron has rightly stressed the need for the banks to recognise their community responsibility. He has urged them to support the Big Society Bank by putting in equity. This is essential. Frankly this Bank will go nowhere unless it can access big capital funds. It needs to be a catalyst to change behaviour in the banking industry.

And talking of private member bills it was a privilege on Wednesday to meet Chris White MP. He came to the Acevo office to meet me and the team and discuss progress on his " social value " bill. This now has Government support for ensuring that public sector commissioning takes account of the social value of potential bids. It is an important bill and we assured Chris that we will brief on his behalf and do what we can to get this through. It is a real tribute to Chris , a new MP, that he may get an important piece of legislation onto the Statute book.

We must support both bills. And wish Chris and Hazel well.

I'm blogging after a successful Acevo AGM which we held in the House of Commons,followed by our annual Parliamentary reception. Francis Maude MP spoke at the reception. I think Francis is one of the most accomplished of the senior Ministers in Government and he has a very clear view about the barriers that stop our sector making progress in delivering more services. And we even had a champagne toast to celebrate my recent Honour ( I got my letter giving me the date of the dubbing today; Windsor Castle,Feb 18 th if you want to come and wave flags! ).

It was a heavy day. We had a meeting of our Faith special interest group today and the Local Government Minister , Andrew Stunnel MP came to speak. It's a group that brings together the large number of Acevo members who work in church charities or church organisations. I rushed from that meeting to an address by the new President of the European Council , Herman von Rompuy Shamelessly I arrived late and still asked a question! I asked him why European institutions ignore the role of civil society organisations and have appalling funding arrangements for them. I suggested it was time for a European Big Society initiative. I'm afraid the answer was not revealing! I'm not sure van Rompuy was particularly up on Big Society. But as someone from a German Foundation said to me afterwards, they don't quite know what it means. An indication that the lack of an effective definition for Big Society

Big Society; Royal Society

First thing, a meeting of our Big Society Commission. A dynamic discussion. Presentations from Gareth Davies, who runs the Office of Civil Society, and from Ipsos Mori with public perceptions of BigSoc.

Interesting discussion on whether power should be "given up" by central Government or whether in fact we want to enable third sector and community organisations to "grab it". Whether the Government really understands the importance of dissent and community activism? If you are enabling people to control more, then they will often do it in ways Government deeply disapprove. And traditionally state bodies don't like that. Volunteering isn't just about jam making. It's about protest as well. As the Mori presentation made clear more people get involved locally to protest against something than to give back. There is also the striking fact that volunteering levels are strongly correlated to levels of affluence and deprivation. Low levels in poor areas so encouraging more volunteering will not reach the parts that we need to drench.

A clear view on the opportunities for more cost effective and citizen driven services and for a growing sector. Some debate about Maude's anarchism and trying to get a better handle on what the framework for Big Society is and a better explanation of it. The sector has much to gain from the Big Society approach. But the danger is the project is floundering under the welter of cuts and funding challenges we all face. Yet the sector will grow and become stronger in the long term.

We agreed a programme of evidence gathering and consultation, looking for example about the role business can play (and not just as a patronising CSR project).

I started the day with Big Society and ended it at The Royal Society. Sixteen years ago I was on a four week course with the Duke of Edinburgh Leadership Forum. We were all put into teams of 12 and our small band formed a strong bond that continues today. A bunch of people drawn from the third sector, unions, business, academe and the church. Many of us were young then and last night three of us reflected on the fact that we and The Queen will celebrate our Diamond jubilees in 2012.

We met at The Royal Society as one of our number has risen through the ranks of academe to become Professor Dame Wendy Hall, a Fellow of the Royal Society; one of the worlds most distinguished and eminent bodies. Others have similarly prospered: a Union Deputy General Secretary, a top Director in BP, a soon to be Bishop and the Policy Director of DWP. But the amazing thing about the leadership course we went on was the fact that we formed such a strong network and we meet up still! The power of leadership....

Tuesday 11 January 2011

More banking....

I was in the BBC Millbank studios again last night. Last time it was to be interviewed by the great Robert Peston for his package on Bank bonuses for the News on Thursday. Did you see it? Unfortunately I was put walking the Hound so missed it but was told it was effective (Mother thought I was looking tired!).

This time it was for BBC Wales and an on air live discussion with an economist Professor Gerald Holtham about my call for a tax on bonuses to go to charity. I hope I gave a fair presentation of our case, and at least I had air time to once again highlight the problems that our sector face with a gaping hole on funding opening up.

We have been getting a lot of attention on this issue. Indeed we are apparently being reported in many places, not least the Hindustan Times and Qatar News. I feature in Blogs (one with the charming heading of "pipe down Sir Stephen"!). But more importantly, also The Wall Street Journal and Harvard Business Review. A sympathetic philanthropy journal in the States reports,

"The head of the U.K. Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations Stephen Bubb, is calling for a 50 percent tax on the bonuses that bankers are getting this year. Good for him! In the U.S., after having driven the economy into a devastating recession, banks are raking in record profits, even after they repay some of their TARP subsidies, and they have rewarded their top staff with amazingly lucrative bonuses.

Bubb is soon to be knighted. Perhaps the new title will help Sir Bubb push through his tough, creative proposal that he hopes will generate funding for Prime Minister David Cameron's big society bank.

The U.S. government has jawboned against these types of bonuses and in some cases has gotten top bankers to forego their six-and seven-figure treats. British bankers will get an estimated £7 billion in bonuses this year. Getting them to dedicate half that sum to the big society bank would be a kickstart and a half for the Tory/Liberal government's social program. Which U.S. nonprofits will call on this nation's banking sector to dedicate half of its huge recession surplus to American charities? — Rick Cohen."

Now it is sad that this has also involved a significant number of thoroughly offensive emails from bankers and calls to our office where members of staff have been abused down the phone. We have had to tell staff that their job does not involve having to put up with bankers who think they can behave in such a way. Of course this simply reinforces the view that many have that the banking industry is out of touch and does not understand the justifiable concern that we as taxpayers have about their behaviour when we bailed the banks out. We hear a lot about "bank bashing" but certain members of that profession think nothing of phoning ACEVO to "bash" us over the phone!

But you need a thick skin when you work in our sector and I was delighted that a colleague and former ACEVO member Sir Deian Hopkins, who was Vice Chancellor of London South Bank University, wrote to me to say,

"I was delighted at your New Year's message (The Times). I understand you have been having a few protests from those who have much and give little - frankly, there are far more of us out there who applaud your leadership and your advocacy of social justice. We live in difficult times - or, more correctly, we are about to live in even more difficult times. Yet, there is little sign that those who have profited in the past, including some who have been responsible for the economic problems we all face, are prepared to accept their share of responsibility. So your message was bound to hit a raw nerve, and so it should!! Long may you continue to be a scourge for the privileged, not can I envisage anyone preventing you from speaking your mind. Now you have this new status, you can make even more noise and even more loudly!"

And Deian, I shall!

Monday 10 January 2011

Giving Generously

In my last post I was encouraging bankers to think about giving half their bonus to charity , if there is not to be a bonus tax. I was pointing to the example of a wealthy merchant who had founded Dulwich Picture Gallery. An article by Will Hutton in yesterday's Observer pointed to the example of America.

In May, America's two wealthiest citizens, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, arranged three separate dinners with those who occupied the positions directly below them in the US rich list: Michael Bloomberg, George Soros, Oprah Winfrey and the rest.

One result was that Buffett and Gates went public in June with what they called the Giving Pledge, an appeal to the conscience of their fellow billionaires that now was the time to donate half their wealth to solving some of the world's problems. So far, 40 have signed up. Buffett had set the ball rolling by pledging 99% of his $70bn (£45.5bn) fortune to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

You can see how the Giving Pledge is developing at and read letters from, among others, Michael Bloomberg, Paul Allen, Ted Turner and George Lucas. Bloomberg writes: "The reality of great wealth is that you can't spend it and you can't take it with you. For decades, I've been committed to giving away the vast majority of my wealth to causes that I'm passionate about. And so I am enthusiastically taking the Giving Pledge, and nearly all of my net worth will be given away in the years ahead."

Sceptics say charity and aid never transformed societies. Gates and Buffett, though, point to the fact that in a few short years of their targeted health policies they have eradicated polio from all but three countries; they now have their sights on malaria. You can only hope the
Giving Pledge proves contagious. the bankers could set that ball rolling. I hope this gets taken up by the Treasury Select Committee tomorow..

Bankers' bonuses; giving generously!

Tomorrow the Treasury Select Committee have a hearing on bank bonuses. Bob Diamond, the CEO of Barclays is appearing. His evidence will be interesting. There is speculation in the press about whether the top executives in the banks will forgo their bonuses. The Sunday press suggests pressure to do so.

In the absence of a tax on bonuses, I have a better suggestion. They should take the bonus but then donate 50% to charity; gift aided of course. This would be more fruitful than merely not taking the bonus and make a very public statement about the need to support the country's charities who are picking up the pieces as a result of the banking crisis and the subsequent spending cuts.

We need some grand gestures like this from people at the top of the banks. It would demonstrate the strong social commitment that David Cameron has called for from them.

There are indeed some in the banks who are remarkably generous and I'm sure will make a big gesture. But they are a minority. The very rich do not make the commitment to giving that many on lower incomes make. It was the point made in the Archbishop of Canterbury's Christmas message.

So tomorrow it would be good for Bob Diamond to make that public commitment , to set an example to his peers and to the country. It would signal to others that giving, at a time of huge stress in our wonderful charity sector , is crucial.

It is an example that has been set over the centuries. Yesterday I was at Dulwich Picture Gallery to celebrate the 200th anniversary of its foundation. The first public art gallery in the world. And it only happened through the enormous generosity of a rich merchant, Francis Bourgeous. When he died 200 years ago he left a fabulous art collection and money to pay for the erection of the Gallery. Sir John Soane gave his services for free in designing it.

It is grand gestures like that one that can make all the difference! Now I'm not suggesting Bob Diamond funds a new gallery- I'm sure he has his own charitable connections and causes, but I do hope we will see generosity from the bankers. And that is not about the spare change on the pocket or a table at a charity dinner ) fine though that is in itself ).

The British Bankers Association should be encouraging their members to give. To use our imperfect but useful gift aid system and to make a real difference. Instead of the usual bullish and often insensitive defence of bonuses make a statement that shows the banks understand the pressures on the taxpayers who bailed them out. The many loosing their jobs. The rising demand on charities when their costs are rising and the Government are cutting them. And to make that statement is not bank bashing!

I'm looking forward to listening to tomorrow's hearing. I'm hoping Bob will surprise us.

Gospel choir- St Martin- in-the-Fields at Dulwich chapel

The director of Dulwich Picture gallery at cake cutting time

200 years old! The cake!

Thursday 6 January 2011

Talking to GPs!

I was a " keynote" speaker at a major event for GPs from pathfinder commissioning consortia today ( speaking just before Andrew Lansley MP ! ). The DH have brought them together as top consortia leaders to talk about the barriers and opportunities of the new commissioning arrangements.

The move to commissioning by GPs is a radical step- some say the most radical restructure in the history of the NHS. I'm not sure that the third sector has yet woken up to the opportunities this presents? Of course there are dangers; what do most GPs know about our sector? What has been their engagement with us so far; little I fear. Many are not tied into local networks of third sector or community groups.

Yet many are involved with the vast range of ACEVO members in health charities. Many of the CEOs of the Royal Colleges are ACEVO members ;including, usefully , the current CEO of the Royal College of GPs ( and soon the new CEO , our old friend Neil Hunt ). But this is a limited engagement with the sector as a whole for your average GP.

So we have to build a relationship almost from scratch. But there is real potential for very different styles of commissioning that build on public health and healthy living partnerships, that seek a fuller engagement with the sector in social care and recognise the massive contribution that the long term conditions charities bring.

My speech concentrated on the role of the sector in delivering services and acting as a voice for citizens and communities. I spoke about the need for GPs to think out of the box when commissioning and engage with the sector, whether in the community or with the many national health charities. I also want GPs to think how they interact and use community and sector bodies as representatives of citizens and communities. In making difficult decisions on scarce resources GPs will need to consult and involve.

But then again it's our job as a sector to be beating a path to the GPs door. Telling them how we can work with them. Support them. Give them solutions. We are not yet effectively doing this.

I stayed to listen to Secretary of State, Andrew Lansley MP. He gave an impressive outline of the reforms and the need for change. He was an excellent advocate for reform. I must say I came away with a strong sense of the potential and the possibilities for our sector to work with GPs. Let's grasp them. Carpe Diem comrades!

Wednesday 5 January 2011

Be bold Osborne!

Yesterday I wrote to the Chancellor expressing the concerns of members about the growing funding storm facing our sector.

Here is the letter we sent;

"Today the VAT rise will hit the work of the country’s charities and wider third sector. For example Sue Ryder Care will loose £1m this year, which could have funded a 16 bed hospice for 6 months.

In April, unless HMT reverses its current position on Gift Aid, charities will loose a further £100 million when transitional relief on Gift Aid comes to an end.

We estimate that these changes, combined with cuts in grants and contracts from the public sector, will cost our sector over £1 billion next year – rising to over £3 billion a year by the end of the parliament.

And yet demand for our services continues to rise.

That is why it is so vital that Government act to protect our work. Without action, I fear that your laudable ambitions to cut the deficit in a way that is fair and to build a Big Society are at risk.

So I am urging you to introduce a one off tax on bankers’ bonuses to go straight into the new Big Society Bank. The Government’s public service reforms have the potential to result in significantly greater delivery of public services by the voluntary sector, offsetting some of the damage that the cuts and tax changes above will inevitably inflict. But that potential is unlikely to be realised if the sector remains as undercapitalised as it is currently – hampered in its ability to transition to new public service markets, or to operate under the capital requirements of a system of payment by results. The Big Society Bank is therefore key to the sector’s ability to play its part in your public service reform agenda, and ultimately key to offsetting the cuts coming our way.

The money from dormant accounts currently earmarked for the Big Society Bank, at least in its initial (and given the speed of the Government’s reforms, crucial) stages will go nowhere near to meeting the need of the sector now. Hence my call for a one-off tax on bonuses.

I would like to come and discuss this with you (along with some of my key members) and to explore the idea, and others, in more detail.

I can assure you there is considerable concern in our sector at the gathering storm. Only firm and radical steps by the Government will alleviate the problem. "

We are also arranging a meeting with Nick Clegg- who is supporting a further tax on bank bonuses, but also a meeting with the top banks. We want to explore with them how they can support a Big Society Bank and how the bonus going to charity could be a good thing for them.

And meanwhile the celebrations continue. Yesterday I celebrated with my truly magnificent and talented ACEVO staff team. Here they are gathered behing me as I open the Knightly bottle of champagne !

And here is one from New years Eve of the family celebrating with me at the gorgeous Port Light Inn on Bolberry Downs, Devon.

Tuesday 4 January 2011

Caritas and King James

"Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels , and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. "

It is the 400th anniversary of the publication of the authorised version of the Bible, or the King James as we know it. This truly magnificent work was the result of a committee of scholars and churchmen meeting in Oxford, Cambridge and Westminster, and gives life to the jibe about camels as the production of committees!

Charlbury played its own small part as the Vicar of Charlbury, the Rev Ralph Hutchinson was one of the translators and there is a beautiful marble monument to him in our Parish Church.

There is a splendid BBC programme on this during the week. Well worth listening to.

In the passage I have quoted there is an interesting use of the word " charity". The translators choose to use the translation from the Latin Vulgate of " caritas" often translated as "love". But the worthy scholars knew what they were doing and wanted to endorse the notion of the rich giving to the poor. This was , after all, the same time as the new statute of Elizabeth on charitable uses.

The impulse to charity is core to the christian, and indeed muslim religion and my recent lecture discussed the role that the Church and charity played from early times in delivering public services.

It puts in context some rather unpleasant emails I have been receiving from "the Lords of the Universe" who object to my suggestion their massive bonuses might be taxed and put to charitable use! One calls for my head. Another says he will never donate to an ACEVO member charity. Somehow one feels they might not actually give that much as the aim of charity is to support the poor rather than make the donor feel good. But it is also good to receive emails from other bankers in more moderate tones , with helpful suggestions on how to increase giving.

The reality is we need strong action from Government to tackle the growing storm facing charities. A tax on bankers bonuses would be one good way of ensuring the new Big Society Bank is effectively capitalised. We need a bold initiative. I'm hoping Cameron and Osborne will find their way to doing that.

One of my correspondents argues, incorrectly,

"What people work for is their own - it is not for him to seek to steal or "redistribute" in the manner he has."

Quite apart from the chutzpah this displays when the British taxpayer bailed out the banks there is a strong historical precedent for redistributive calls, not least in the teachings of Christ.

So , as the King James Bible has it ,

" And again I say unto you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. "

Saturday 1 January 2011

Charity tax on bankers

An interview I have done for The Times makes it to the front page. Then the ACEVO call for a banker bonus tax gets strong airtime on BBC , ITN and Sky. I have highlighted the growing threat to charities and the third sector by cuts. What we have seen so far are merely the first signs of a growing tsunami of Ill considered cuts I argue. They use my comment that, " if charities are hit today,the old and disabled will pay tomorrow " to head up a full 2 pages of commentary highlighting what the cuts actually mean on the ground, together with my interview. The great Today programme used the interview and so a lot of people who hadn't actually read yesterday's List discovered my new appellation!

But the key point was the ACEVO call for the tax to go straight to the Big Society Bank. The Darling tax on bonuses raised over £ 3 billion. The current pot for bonuses is estimated at a cool £7million. So a tax at 50% would raise sufficient to start the new Bank off with a sensible amount to he capitalise the sector , to help third sector organisations to bid for contracts and so to grow, and to encourage merger and rationalisation among sector bodies. Currently it is estimated that only £60m will come from dormant accounts. I'm afraid this won't even voucher half the amount we will loose from Tuesday , let alone make up for the cuts.

It is clear that the rich pay less as a proportion of their income than the poor and so it seems appropriate that a bankers bonus tax be used to support the charitable sector. Indeed we know that the banks were in discussion with Governmnet on how they would put money into the new Bank. But then we heard the banks had gone quiet on that. Well , here is an opportunity for them to recognise the debt they owe the
British people by supporting the vulnerable and excluded. It was interesting to get an email in response to my interview from an expat in Switzerland who has worked in banking. He wrote,

"In the (now distant) past, philanthropy meant that a lot of charitable purposes were financed by the generosity of above-average earners. Nowadays the top earners are getting paid tens - even hundreds - of times as much as their predecessors of yore, but philanthropy has gone
out of the window, and charities have had to take the strain, even as middle-class earners' ability to donate has ebbed away .In part this latter phenomenon has arisen through the top earners grabbing a larger slice of the cake. What a vicious spiral we are in: in the 1980s, the top 1% of earners in Western societies took 8% of the income cake, now they devour 24%, down from 30% immediately before the crisis broke. That of course leaves 76% for the other 99% of us, instead of 92% ). "

So ACEVO is seeking a meeting with the Chancellor and Danny Alexander. We also want to see Nick Clegg , who has publicly called for a new tax on bankers bonuses. I'm sure that this idea has traction. The banks don't seem to understand we all have long memories and a big splurge in bonuses will cause outrage. So we are also writing to the CEOs of the big banks asking them to support the " charity tax". I'm sure we can persuade the British Bankers Association to support us on this. I shall be contacting Angela Knight to discuss this..

So far the Government have been timid in reacting to the coming storm. That is not to say we do not fully support the work that has gone on. The transition fund was a great piece of news in a bleak budget. And people like Greg Clark MP , Nick Hurd MP and Eric Pickles MP have been warring councils they risk underminig the Big Society project. Their warnings are not being heeded. So the idea of a bonus tax could transform the prospects for our sector. Action is needed now.

I have been much on the blackberry over the last 2 days. I have been really touched by the vast number of emails and texts from people saying congrats. I have even heard from an old primary school friend as well as people I have worked with over the last 30 years. I had a
charming note from my Knightly colleague Sir Stuart and the new NCVO Chair sent me a fantastic note , Suzi , Nick Hurd and Baroness Angela Smith texted.and lots and lots of members emailed. One email asked , " does this give you licence to adopt new airs? You could travel between meetings in a sedan chair! ". Steve Whyler, who runs the DTA and is a member who also got honoured in yesterday's list said , " I have every confidence you will let it go to your head ". But the prize goes to Mike Baker who wrote me a Limerick ( get it ? ) .

There was a young man named Bubb
Who went to the Palace for a Dub
When the Queen gave him Bolly
Stephen asked for more lolly
She said "I'll tell Cameron to give you a su

One I really appreciated was ,

" It is an truly fitting tribute to all that you amd your work at ACEVO have achieved over the years through a combination of splendid initiatives, steely persistence and your own deep personal commitment and relaxed style."

And my local paper , the Oxford Mail reported ,

" A WEST Oxfordshire man has been knighted for services to the voluntary sector.

Stephen Bubb who has lived in Charlbury for more than 20 years, is chief executive of the charity leaders’ body the Association of Chief
Executives of Voluntary Organisations (ACEVO).

Conservative MP Damian Green praised the former Oxford University student and chairman of the City of Oxford Orchestra.

He said: “In 10 years Stephen has applied his unique brand of enthusiasm, flair, and sheer bull-headedness to driving ACEVO forward. At a time when the voluntary sector is more important than ever, this is hugely important work. He is a great contributor.”

Now that is quite enough self congratulation Bubb. Still , Robin Bogg will no doubt keep me cut down to size!