Tuesday, 8 February 2011

A thinning Big Society and my pate!

Well, Mothers can be the sharpest critics! My mother's main comment on my appearance with Nick Hurd MP on the Channel 4 News slot with Jon Snow was that they had done a shot from behind us which showed off my bald patch (what bald patch I said!). My sisters Sara and Lucy were also commenting cruelly. Never mind what I was saying of course! (And note to self; next time they do the make-up before show ask them to tackle the pate!)

I was delighted that I had put on one of my Victoria Richard's ties today. She runs a brilliant social enterprise and Jon Snow is a great fan. He had one on too, though not the same one or that would have looked decidedly odd! I complimented him on his recent Desert Island Discs appearance. He was a chorister and so, like me, loves choral music. One of his choices was Herbert Howells, Collegium Regale, which has a stunning Magnificat. Listen to it and be awed!

And we all need something to cheer us up at the moment. It's depressing to get daily emails and calls from members angry at cuts. It needs firm action, particularly over Council cuts. Time for Government to direct Councils on this. My argument is that this is in the spirit of localism; to stop Councils undermining the empowerment of charities and voluntary groups.

I was supposed to be at a party last night in Speaker's House to celebrate Dame Elizabeth's retirement. The Dame has been a long standing member of ACEVO. Indeed her pink handbag was one of my earliest memories of an ACEVO meeting when I took up post in 2000. Of course she had already been in post for a long time by then! Nearly 40 years at the helm. What a star!

I didn't make it, but ironically that was her fault as her intervention on the cuts to volunteering sparked all this media interest, and by the time Nick and I had finished we had missed it!

I've just read through today's Times, which is full of stories on the Big Society, as well as an irritating article by Francis Maude (theme; "Big Society is not about pouring taxpayers money into the voluntary sector", as if, Francis!)

Now I'm on my way to our Big Society Commission, being held at one of our corporate partners, Farrers, the legal firm (the splendid Anne-Marie Piper is their charity partner and a force in the charity land!). We meet in the very room where Charles Dickens signed his will and the Charter of the Bank of England was drawn up. The sense of history is so appropriate for what we are doing; charities have been around for centuries and delivering what we now term a Big Society. I wish the Government would recognise our strength and collective wisdom and use us, not cut us.

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