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.

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