Wednesday 12 January 2011

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

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