Thursday 30 June 2011

Grand Larceny

HM Treasury have just published a Review which recommends the nationalisation of the assets of hospital charities. This must be rejected by the Government immediately. The recommendations could lead to up to £500m of charitable assets being recorded on government balance sheets.

The final report of the Treasury review group says NHS charities in England that have an NHS trust as their corporate trustee should have their assets recorded on the balance sheets of those trusts, which are of course state bodies.

Ministers must decide whether to implement the recommendations, which are part of a long-running debate over how NHS charities' accounts should be handled.

Four sterling members of the review group, including Ray Jones of the Charity Commission, and Keith Day, a representative of the Association of NHS Charities, published a "dissenting report", saying the review group's conclusion that consolidation was necessary was "potentially damaging" to charities. They are right. Well done to them for speaking out.

The Charity Commission has argued in the past that consolidation would be "wholly inappropriate". In 1947 the Charity Commission resisted the attempt by the then Labour Government to nationalise the assets of the hospital charities. I shall expect them to be as firm and vigorous in demanding these proposals are rejected this time. The Charity Commission representative on the review was on of those signatory to the 'dissenting report', and as such has said again "we cannot accept that... the imposition of [consolidated accounts] is justified". Quite right. Now the Commission needs to hold to that view robustly and defend charity assets from the state.

The review group made its recommendations based on a new accounting standard. But they have failed to understand the implications for charity and the damage this will do to trust and to the chances of these charities fundraising in the future.

There are 302 NHS charities in England, with assets worth about £2bn. Of these, 281 with combined assets of £500m have their parent NHS trust as their corporate trustee.

So time for ACEVO to spring into action. I have written to Lansley and to Danny Alexander demanding they reject these recommendations. They damage charity. They damage the health service. It says,

"Dear Andrew,

I am writing to urge you to resist the recommendations of the Treasury review into the consolidation of NHS Charity accounts.

As the 'dissenting report' of members of that review says, consolidation could have an adverse impact on levels of donations, and encourage "inappropriate treatment of charitable funds" - in other words, the potential use of an estimated £500 million of charitable funds by NHS organisations to plug holes in their own budgets.

To avoid consolidation, NHS charities would be required to go through costly governance changes at a time when, as the dissenting report points out, those governance arrangements might only last for a few years before more fundamental restructuring removes the need for consolidation to apply.

At a time when charities are under significant financial strain, and when the Government is pursuing the aim of 'liberating' NHS organisations to focus more on the people they exist to serve, it would be wholly inappropriate either to tie charities up in pursuing costly and unnecessary governance changes, to hurt their ability to raise donations, or to put them at risk of having their charitable funds purloined by struggling NHS organisations. It also raises the bizarre spectacle of a Conservative Government, committed to promoting charity and giving organisations more freedom from the centre, achieving what the nationalising Labour governments of the 1940s could not - the effective nationalisation of NHS charities.

I would strongly urge you to resist such moves, and instead to follow the recommendations of the dissenting report - namely to delay the requirement to consolidate NHS charity accounts until the Department of Health has brought forward proposals (which I understand are under consideration) to give NHS charities greater freedom, thereby ultimately making the consolidation issue obsolete.".

Beware the Anti Choice BMA

Well, the BMA have shown their true colours. As the doctors' trade union, their recent conference shows how little interest they have in the rights and role of citizens and patients. Their debate on the health bill and the Future Forum reports was a disgrace. They argued against patient choice. One delegate argued that, "competition would simply be rebranded as patient choice".

Their opposition to patient choice demonstrates one of the reasons we need reform. Instead of arguing against patient choice it is time the BMA addressed the problems that have made successive Governments want to introduce more choice in the first place. The battle so many of us have in trying to get a same-day appointment with the doctor. The wild variations in quality of care at different institutions. The difficulty too many still have in seeing their GP at the weekend or evening. The people who need doctors and who aren’t able to get them – travellers and the homeless, for example.

Still, it took a while for the BMA to decide to reverse their opposition to the NHS (above all they were opposed, we should remember, to being nationalised, insisting on being private contractors to the state). Perhaps in a few decades they will get round to the idea of patient and citizen power.

In their opposition to choice, they demonstrate their opposition to the NHS Constitution which guarantees choice. But then it also says "the NHS belongs to the people" and it often seems they don't believe that!

It is time Governments stood up to the bad behaviour of this union instead of indulging them. I trust there will be no attempt to further compromise on competition. Indeed, the behaviour of delegates at their conference shows why we need more diversity of providers. Fortunately not all doctors behave this way. The NHS Alliance for instance is an enlightened and progressive gathering of doctors and others who do believe in patient choice. And the Royal College of GPs do not share this anti diluvian attitude to the people who own the service; us the people!

Wednesday 29 June 2011

Resting in Edinburgh and children

I have been having a few days rest and recovery! It was probably the third ACEVO member who said to me at our recent summit "you’re looking tired" that did it! So I decamped to Edinburgh; one of the world's greatest cities, to recuperate. I even managed to keep off the blackberry for some time whilst enjoying the delights of the galleries and shops of this glorious Capital. An extremely agreeable lunch at the New Club on Princes Street was just what the doctor ordered!

I arrived home to find my copy of Third Sector magazine waiting for me. Well I guess the cartoon all over the front page is fun! Even if I do look like I've been hammering the Champagne. I'm in touch with the cartoonist to purchase it for the Office!

And while away the troops have been busy producing yet another stunning report. Is there no end to the talent and energy of team ACEVO? And now I am returned it will be redoubled efforts and even more working parties (though Dr Kyle tells me he has packed my diary with meetings to stop me having too many ideas and causing too much disruption in the office!)

This time it is the publication of a report of our early years task force, chaired by the redoubtable Anne Longfield, the CEO of 4Children. It argues that third sector organisations must be more consistently involved in policy decisions about children’s services if the government is serious about improving them.

The report, One million reasons for reform, (see here) calls for a culture change in the government so the sector is consistently engaged in policy-making on children’s services.

"The emergence of a new Children’s Improvement Board in helping design and implement reform of early years, without any voluntary sector representation, shows that old habits die hard," it says.

"If the government is serious about transformation and voluntary sector engagement, it needs to ensure that voluntary organisations are around the top table as well as traditional players such as local authorities."

It adds that payment by results must be additional rather than a final payment, so that organisations without the capital necessary to invest in services can still win contracts.

The report also calls on the government to ring-fence its Early Intervention Grant, a fund for councils to run services for children, families and young people, because funds are failing to reach front-line services and it is causing services to close.

And it points out that there are serious barriers to charities competing with public and private sector organisations to deliver children’s services, such as their inability to reclaim VAT.

The VAT issue really does need to be sorted. But I’m glad that HMRC has finally announced its long-awaited consultation on exempting charities who share services from VAT. This was one of the recommendations of our Commission on Big Society and an issue I’ve pushed many times with ministers. Good to see action on it at last.

Thursday 23 June 2011

Making impact!

Well, our gallant Third Sector Minister has certainly noticed my arrival back on the sector scene. The acevo Big Society Commission had a fruitful session with Nick Hurd MP this week and I manage to put my chair leg directly over his foot. Fortunately our strategic grant is sorted.

And notice the use of the term "third sector", much beloved but lately sorely missed. One of my triumphs in the future forum reports was to get copious mentions of the third sector rather than the lame alternatives of voluntary sector etc. Increasingly I notice ministers also talking third sector. It's so much easier. I'm looking forward to Nick's U turn (so fashionable in government circles these days) when he too uses the term. Shall we have bets on when that might happen?

We are now into the recruitment process for the new CEO of the social investment business. We interview end july. David Fielding, headhunter supremo, is trawling the highways and byways of the City and Sector to find that special individual who will lead us to even greater triumphs.

We said goodbye to Jonathan Lewis last night with champagne in a down market pub by Goldman Sachs. Jonathan has put us on the map. A top class CEO who transformed the organisation. Our reputation as the UK's largest social investor should catch us a good next one.

At our Board meeting last night we discussed potential alliances across Europe with SIB, the Big Society Bank and European bodies. Watch this space for more news here. The SIB taskforce on social investment will be publishing its report soon.

And now I'm at ACEVO's annual CEO summit. The leading conference for chief executives in our sector. And great for me to renew contact with my members. They have missed me! And I have missed them - all those not in health that is!

Wednesday 22 June 2011


I confess I have been a tad lazy of late and failed to blog for a number of days. But having finished the role at DH chairing the future forum work on choice and competition I needed a bit of head room to get used to re-entry into third sector!

Ideally I'd have taken a few days off, but the diary didn't permit. Though I did get to a meeting in Paris on Friday with the big French mutual bank , Credit cooperatif and the head of the European Federation of Ethical and Alternative banks, which meant an overnight in that wonderful city.

The meeting was fascinating. We were exploring links to build potential between the Big Society Bank and the european ethical banking sector. We are also talking about a taskforce to look at how to develop a European wide social finance initiative. Preliminary work is going on for a launch in Krakov in September. Our aim? We want to persuade the EU to set up a Euro social investment fund.

This is an area where the UK has much to offer and the experience of the Social Investment Business in making loans to the third sector will be invaluable.

Thursday had seen me making a dash up from Cumberland Lodge in Windsor Great Park to be quizzed by the Commons Health Select Committee. That was an interesting experience; not least in being given a mighty wadge of briefing materials , complete with yellow tags, by the civil service. The sort of documents you see Ministers with. Containing all sorts of suggested answers to potential questions. All very interesting. I relied on my own brain however.

It was good to be cross examined by Valerie Vaz MP , an old friend from the 80s who therefore kept referring to me as "Sir Steve", which made Steve Field think he had been elevated. She had certainly read my report and kept referring me to pages in it. And just for once I was on top of it all having spent 2 months pouring over every last comma and paragraph of said report. But she was much exercised over whether I had taken independent legal advice on the question of EU competition law. Answer, no.

I was asked about the Alan Milburn "car crash" article. Whilst I thought some of the article was unfair I did agree with his point that messaging is incredibly important in a service that has a top down somewhat old fashioned Stalinist approach to policy and decision making. So if the message is "no change" or "no competition" this may be disastrous to innovation and more involvement of our third sector.

I also raised the thorny issue of how we move to more resources in the community and away from hospitals. This will mean hospital closures. This issue is beginning to get an airing in the press. That is good.

Then it was back to Cumberland Lodge and a brief encounter with Sir Stuart who, he told me, was en route from Lisbon to Brussels. And who knows, perhaps he is now in Athens ....

I was also able to talk to the acevo special interest group of health and social care members on the report yesterday, along with Geoff Alltimes (CEO of Hammersmith and Fulham and one of the leads for the NHS listening exercise). There is an exciting agenda for the sector opening up. I think this is particularly true in work with local government. I shall be meeting with Geoff to follow up!

Wednesday 15 June 2011

Dust settles?

I'm not sure the full impact of all the Future Forum reports are yet fully understood. This is partly the result of a rushed press conference where journalists only had a couple of hours to read 5 report and so coverage was impressionistic. And sometimes wrong. The coverage has mainly been " it's no to privatisation ".

Actually no one ever suggested this. It's a crazy idea. No one supports that. And it was not in the Bill. So it was always a bogey man to frighten the horses. What is needed is a proper debate about the role competition can play.

Competition can be a good thing. The key question is how we harness it properly – that is what our report set out to answer. It said “here’s how competition can work for the citizen” – not “no to privatisation”. So the Times editorial today was spot on.

And a few personal reflections.

I arrived at DH to take up this task full of suspicion that the civil servants would try to corral and control me. That I would not be able to speak out. I have found that the people seconded to support the Future Forum were a model of how good the British civil service can be. Superb craftsmen. Sound judgement and strong ability to work around problems and difficulties.

There is a high calibre of skill and talent in the Department of Health. If I had a criticism it is that they can be a bit cut off from the rest of Whitehall, or prone to pay unwarranted attention to the big vested interests and the big acute hospitals ( frankly some of these folk need a boot in backside , not indulging ) and too much in love with a peculiar health service language.

Language is important. The health service has a whole way of talking that is excluding of the non professional. They don't understand the difference between " patient" and citizen. They love patients. These are people that can be patronised and researched. Citizens have rights and want to exercise them.

That is why I was keen in my report to stress the legal right to challenge for citizens so that the professionals are kept to their job in delivering quality services.

And I should also mention my colleague Forum Chairs. It has been a privilege to get to know them over the last 2 months. We have all worked extraordinarily hard. I felt particularly for Geoff Alltimes who is CEO of Hammersmith and Fulham. He wasn't able to drop the day job and do this full time like me. So the strain on him was much greater. The great Doctor Field was a marvel. Almost unflappable. Just the sort of person you want in charge of an excercise like this.

So amusing to read a certain journo Quentin Letts ( can't be his real name ) making snide remarks about us ( mind you it is the Mail so a battle honour really ! ) ;

"Who were these richly-attired, fashionably-bespectacled wallahs? Most were members of the Future Forum, a committee which was convened to smooth the smooth the way to the new policy. Among the chief preeners was Sir Stephen Bubb, who seemed to be treating the event as a networking opportunity. "

Shock horror! Bubb a networker ! Of course we should all have been in a corner praying I guess.

Now I'm at Cumberland Lodge in Windsor Great Park at conference on The third sector with the Third Sector Research Centre people. A peaceful place.

I was hoping to spend a few days relaxing and thinking about back to ACEVO but I'm at the Health select Committee in the Commons tomorrow!

Tuesday 14 June 2011

At Cabinet!

Another day. Another meeting in the Cabinet room. Only this time we are presenting our reports to the full Cabinet which today is just on health.

The 5 of us chairs of the Future Forum Review were each given 2 minutes to present. So another sleepless night. I managed to get together my bit in my head at about 4 pm and then got up at 7, wrote it down and went into the garden to rehearse.

I must have made a strange sight in my dressing gown, blackberry stopwatch in hand , declaiming to the strawberries!

We had arrived early to case the joint and prepare ourselves. We joined in the general chat at the beginning over coffee. My old friend Eric Pickles jocularly remarks " well, I always knew we'd end up in the Cabinet together ". I had a good chat with cousin George ( The Chancellor). I explained I was his cousin 5 times removed as he had not previously realised this astonishing fact! My anglo - irish great uncle x4, Osborne Limrick's mother was an Osborne. So we chatted about Ireland.

We were sat at the end of the Cabinet table so I stand to make my 2 minute contribution. So for the record I say;

# competition is not a disease

# evidence in health shows it drives quality and choice

# debate needs to move from does it work to how we maximise the beneftis whilst minimising the risks

# we propose managed competition that is driven by choice, quality and integration

# despite spin re watering down competition in our recommendations we are not; if you want more choice you need a diversity of providers. You need more delivery through charities , social enterprises and yes, private sector providers.

# the NHS constitution promises choice. It is lamentable in providing it.

# the government were wrong to propose Monitor has a duty to promote competition. That's clunky. What we need is bottom up drive for change based on citizens exerting their right to choice. So;

# personal budgets

# a Citizens Panel- watchdog for choice

# and most importantly of all, a legal right to challenge bad delivery and no choice

I end by saying that the NHS Constitution states " the NHS belongs to the people". That's the " people" not the BMA ! That gets a titter of approval from around the table!

And my final plea to the Cabinet; not to be wimpy about competition.

My colleagues Kathy , Julie and Geoff are all remarkably succinct and forceful. We make a great team- different approaches but a powerful voice. Apparently it is very rare indeed for anyone outside of Government to speak at Cabinet. And we are the first people to do so under Cameron.

The questions to us went on for about an hour. Extremely good comments and debate. I suspect I'm not supposed to blog on all that so I shan't. You will be able to read the full debate when they release the Cabinet Papers in 30 years.

All I can say is that as we left the PM said that they would try not to be too wimpish!

Then we the future forum got ourselves into a taxi and took ourselves off to Guys for the press conference to hear the outline of the government's response.

Clegg, Cameron and Lansley , the obligatory collection of nurses to sit patiently behind them to provide a caring backdrop. And us in front row where the TV cameras get endless shots of my bald patch. Did you see it on BBC and ITN last night? Mother certainly did and was most amused...

Cameron actually used 2 of the points I had made at Cabinet so I was clear he had been listening.

I did a couple of interviews. The first time I have been interviewed by the doyen of reporters BBC's Nick Robinson! And straight after it was onto Milbank where I did an interview with the great Michael Crick of Newsnight.

Next stop ; Parliament where we went to hear the Statement by Andrew Lansley respondent to the Future Forum Reports. Courtesy of the Speaker we were seated in the Distinguished Strangers Gallery! I can't say the debate that followed was exactly a highlight of oratory. Poor points and insults and demands from Labour to apologise. No real attempt to analyse or disect our reports or the Government's response. Disappointing because these changes are important to what we all know is one of the most treasured parts of British life.

A stop off in the Cinnamon Club where the FF attic team were taking advantage of happy hour to celebrate a job well done. Then home. Shattered. I planted a few salvias for relaxation and fell asleep on the sofa.

Monday 13 June 2011

Today; the final act

Later today I and my Forum Chair colleagues will be presenting our Future Forum Reports to the PM , Nick Clegg MP and Andrew Lansley MP . After that we meet the press.

Overall , the reports of the Forum really provide an opportunity to drive change in the NHS and to improve the Bill.

Although I've said before that the listening exercise was a rough and ready process , it has enabled us to make some radical proposals that are not just about changing the Bill but also more widely on changes needed for the future of the NHS; a service owned by us all as citizens.

My own report, which has been signed off by all the members of my 12 person panel , " Delivering real choice" will propose we use competition as a means to achieve greater choice in our NHS , not as an end in itself. And we look at ways in which managed and regulated competition can drive more choice. There are also some radical ideas to drive citizen power in their health service.

I'm afraid you will have to wait for more details. I am being unusually reticent ahead of the press conference at 2.30 and have even been refusing to talk to journalists. Not my normal modus operandi.

I was amused to read an attack on me in the Observer, where I was compared by some Lib Dem MP to Simon Cowell. If that was intended as an insult I'm afraid I'm very happy to be compared to TV's most successful presenter; someone who has more people viewing his shows than any other. And the article quoted from my Blog; always a good thing. The more it's read the better!

It shows how difficult this issue of choice and competition is and how politically contentious. But when people read the report they will find a balanced and sensible approach which reflects a consensus amongst the many professionals and experts on the Forum. A shame that some MPs felt unable to wait to read the report before attacking it. Hardly a mature approach to this debate.

I spent the weekend relaxing and preparing for today. As it was Pentecost ( always used to be called Whit Sunday in my youth ! ) I went across to the gorgeous little norman church tucked into a quiet fold of the Evenlode valley at Shorthampton for Mass. The graveyard was particularly peaceful and restful. And as I sat in the old box pews I was hoping that the spirit of Pentecost would rest with me as I go into battle for our ideas. The Book of Common Prayer collect for the day asks that we have a " right judgement in all things". How fitting.

On Saturday I was in the bookshop at Witney meeting Rebecca Tope. She has been writing crime novels for 11 years and they are all set in the Cotswolds. The first " A Cotswold Killing" is set in the lovely village of Duntisbourne Abbots. The rector of the church there in the 19th century was one George Bubb! He had a rather fine georgian rectory and was responsible for a restoration in the church.
I asked Rebecca if Charlbury had featured in a novel. She said " not yet" !

So , into battle for " right judgement ". Let's trust the debate can be based on what is a good future for our NHS rather than narrow party political advantage. The NHS is too important for that.

Thursday 9 June 2011

Good for the Archbishop

It is not just because he has a house in Charlbury or that he was a canon at my former College that I like his Grace . A charming and learned man of great distinction . A thoughtful article in the NS which deserves more measured response from usual politicians knee jerk denouncements.

He is absolutely right to draw attention to the growing insidious attempt to look at the deserving and undeserving poor. This rather nasty dogma was very prevalent in the 19th century and there are unpleasant echoes in speeches by people like cousin George Osborne when he talks of scroungers on benefit. My recent Lecture on " rediscovering charity" made similar points about this nasty language. As unemployment grows we can expect more of the attacks on scroungers, as though there are jobs for all and those on long term benefit simply living off the land.

Recently. Mind released information on how people with mental health problems are growing concerned about how new tests on disability benefit will work and whether they will scar people off getting what is rightly theirs.

He is also right to talk of worry and concern in communities about current policies. It is something that we pick up from members , especially in more deprived communities and working with excluded or marginalised people.

The cuts to our sector's work with the most vulnerable, at a time of growing unemployment has caused anxiety and bafflement.

And who cannot argue that the term Big society has become a bit stale? Even the government agree with that. But he also argues for the underpinning notions behind BS- exactly the point our ACEVO Commission was making.

So good for you Rowan.

Rescuing risk from the anally retentive and the lull

A very interesting lunch with Paul Emery from Zurich, the big insurance company who are one of ACEVO's strategic partners. We're doing some joint work giving advice on risk management for CEOs. The reality of much risk handling is that it is done appallingly. We all have those " risk registers" which we pore over at Board meetings. They lull you into a false sense of security. And worse , they often make Boards deeply risk averse.

But as Paul rightly said , the proper handling of risk is not to stop you taking advantage of new opportunities or new ventures , it is about how you handle and manage the risk involved. Too many Boards think that if something involves risk they should not do it. That is the anally retentive approach to risk management. And bluntly that probably means the business atrophies and becomes staid and potentially looses out on new opportunities. In fact the risk is that by refusing to take on innovation you go out of business.

If the third sector is not risk hungry then what is the point? I'm fond of leaps in the dark. If you are smart you manage them so that you land upside !

I've always been proud ACEVO is seen as an " edgy" dynamic body that is not afraid to be out in front in a leadership role whilst others sit it out trying to work out which way the wind is blowing. ACEVO likes to make the wind blow , even if that sometimes means ruffling feathers or blowing away peoples' hats or skirts!

I'm in a sort of lull at the moment. Report finished. Being poured over by people who like proof reading and who will undoubtedly correct my spelling and bad grammar. We are heading for the publication now early next week, and then the Governmnet will respond. I'm happy we have all done a good job that moves this debate on. You will judge for yourselves when you see it.

So tonight I'm relaxing. Entertaining some French visitors at my Club. The head of a major French mutual and a top French umbrella body to talk about how to progress the social finance movement across Europe. The SIB have set up a task force to look at the potential for the future of social finance in the UK. We want to link that with the wider European agenda for supporting loans to the third sector. An exciting project. The EU have agreed on making social innovation a priority and so Euclid ( our European third sector leaders network ) will be pushing this vigorously.

I'm taking them to my Club as there is a very wonderful full length painting of Wellington in the Bar ! My GGG grandfather fought with him ( a fellow Irishman as it happens ) in India. A fine fellow. Wellington that is. Oh , and my GGGG!

I shall toast him in a fine claret amd I can celebrate finishing that report and my imminent return to ACEVO. The bunting is already being prepared I understand!

Tuesday 7 June 2011

Of one mind!

Just as I was signing off our Panel's report on " Delivering real choice" I get sent a copy of the PM speech announcing he is accepting many of our key recommendations ( although we haven't actually given him the report yet! )His comments on the role of competition which can drive choice and better quality is spot on. As also are the comments on the need for integration of services in health and social care and on the role of Monitor.

I am unclear why he thought it was a good idea to pre announce acceptance of much of our Report, but it is welcome .

But what I can promise is that we have more radical proposals that will take this debate forward further. I trust they will all be accepted too. As you can imagine I get many press calls following this and I try to suppress irritation about it all. But then as he commissioned the report I guess it's fair game? Though that does mean there is less to announce next week.

My impression is that there is now much greater consensus around the issue of competition and where it should be used and how it can promote greater choice for citizens. And it now looks like the changes we will propose will enable the Bill to go ahead with much clearer support. So the process , rough and ready though it is, has achieved change in a way that the more formal consultation processes do not. Maybe we will be seeing more of this " pause stuff " in the future. But after we launch this early next week I'm back to ACEVO !

I see that we have yet another ennobled big society guru giving us the benefit of his advice. I can't say I thought the absurd remarks on locality by Lord Glasman were helpful and showed he is simply a bad loser. I found his interview in Third Sector deeply irritating and yet another example of someone who does not understand the nature or history of our third sector. So he joins a long list of backbench Tory MPs and others who think it is smart to attack big charities. " Charities became very reliant on state funding to pursue their agendas, so charities became distant from local communities." Two errors here demonstrate a low grasp of our history. I suggest a proper read of my last lecture on rediscovering charity which shows the role of our sector working in partnership with the state in delivering services. Second why does he assume that you only define community in terms of geography? Has he not come across the concept of communities of interest such as the blind or partially sighted or people with autism ? For them the existence of the RNIB and the National Autistic Society are vital support and comfort. To suggest that they have become distant from their members is ignorant and insulting.

I remember the example of one of my members who runs an autism charity who said how a mother they were supporting with 2 autistic children , living in a tower block in North London, were facing harassment and abuse from their local community. Perhaps Lord Glasman has Rose tinted spectacles? Communities are not always friendly places. That is why we have national charities. Thank goodness. So no Lord Glasman , the Labour Party will not be renewed just by listening " to people who have a following in their own communities". It will also need to listen to those who run the great traditional national charities who form the backbone of our sector and who have made a huge contribution to building a more just and tolerant society over the last many centuries.

But in the Glasman Big Society it is clear the only true believers will be small community organisations and the rest of our great sector , the disability charities , the national charities and social enterprises will have no place. I am horrified that he is billed as the new advisor to the Labour Party on all this.

And on the subject of media reports I see that Paul Amadi has been calling for the merger of ACEVO , CFDG and IoF. Interesting. In fact I think there is something in this. Indeed it is something I have discussed with the former CEOs of those 2 bodies. We have tried in the past to look at opportunities to share an office together .There is a natural affinity between the 3 main professional membership bodies . We represent the top tier of sector leaders. Certainly in ACEVO we try to work with our colleagues on core issues around funding , such as gift aid. But whether a formal merger is the route I don't know?

The recent news on the reduction in numbers of charities shows that people are being drawn to mergers as the cuts affect us all. But I have also seen that the recent travails in our sector have encouraged much closer working between the key leadership bodies , as people have noticed there is now more close working between ncvo and ACEVO as the sectors two lead organisations. That can only be good as together we make a formidable pair in advocating on the national stage for our sector.

Monday 6 June 2011

Getting closer...

Well , there was a deep irony in making further editing changes to the " Delivering real choice" report whilst sitting in the A and E at the John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford. My partner has " tennis calf" , very painful. Delighted to say we were only there for just over an hour , so no need to compete then eh!

I spoke too soon on the Charlbury Big Society Library. There has been a public meeting and the good citizens of Charlbury have decided that it is not their role to subsidise the county council and that there are lots of other things which charlburiams are doing on volunteering.

So it's the final week for the deliberations. We have a meeting of the groups this week and it's off to the printers. I see that the politicians are still not quite able to get the "pause " thing and we are to get another speech tomorrow. Why can't they actually wait till our Report is out. It's only a matter of days. It must make our work look less relevant when they can't wait.

Friday 3 June 2011

Macmillan, Farrar , Lewis and Oxford

I was cooking the pasta when 2 nice ladies knocked at the door asking for money. I was delighted to oblige. They were from Macmillan Cancer Care! They asked me if I knew much about Macmillan and the work on cancer. I said oh yes indeed, but spared them a lengthy talk on just how much , or indeed my work in promoting integrated care pathways as part of the future forum. It would have been unkind.

So I signed the forms and wished them well. It goes without saying that Macmillan CEO , CiarĂ¡n Devane is an ACEVO member. They do great work. When silly people on the tory backbenches or in remote corners of our own dear third sector complain about big national charities they should remember the extraordinary work of the big cancer charities; saving lives, providing support and research and much needed patient centred services and hang their heads in shame.

We had a meeting of the 5 chairs of the Forum this morning to run through the 4 panel reports. Fascinating. Well, I now probably know more than I ever needed about Deaneries and things appertaining to medical training. They are like the lost tribe of Israel; looking for a home when the SHAs are abolished and my colleague Julie Moore, the formidable CEO of University Hospital Birmingham is looking at where they should go. I thought of offering them ACEVO as a home; I fancy being a Dean after all, but Julie is not to be messed with! All very important obviously. And then there are clinical cabinets. Or are they clinical senates?

And then we got stuck into competition! I read them the magnificent final paragraph of my report introduction about which I'm inordinately proud. We shall see how the other bits go down!

But frankly I think there is more consensus on this issue than might appear on the surface or in the media and politicians' speeches. You can judge for yourselves when it is published. I made a bid for exclusive rights for my report to be revealed on my Blog but I was suppressed.

My rather excellent DH minder is now beavering away adding impressive footnotes, academic references ,tidying my spelling and drafting the bits I've left and generally making sense of it all. She will deserve an OBE after all this. Or a secondment to ACEVO which is better.

I break off to see the new CEO of the NHS Confederation , Mike Farrar. He is 11 days into the job. Very keen to develop better links with the third sector. And as the Confed is a charity he can join ACEVO. How cool is that.

Home early to the strawberries. And of course Coronation St. It has rather disrupted evening receptions this week: I've turned them all down so I don't miss an episode. I love soaps. Sad I know but its a great form of relaxation.

And in between times I sign off the ads and job briefs for the new CEO of the Social Investment Business. Jonathan Lewis is moving on. Jonathan has been a top class CEO. He has really grown SIB. It was his vision that led the Adventure Capital Fund bidding to run Futurebuilders and win it. And then run it with great success. After 4 years he is moving on. Naughty to go so soon. I think 10 years is a proper stint on a CEO post don't you?!! But I wish him well.

So look out for the Job Ad in the Sunday Times this week. We want the best. It's the UK 's top social investor. Others talk social finance. We do it. Must be one of the best jobs in the sector. And a Chair that understands the importance of letting the CEO do their job.

Tomorrow I have a well deserved day off. I'm off to Oxford to see my nephew Oliver row in his College ( Brasenose) first Eight and then take my Director of Strategy , the estimable Seb Elsworth to dine on High table in my old College. And hopefully see my other 2 nephews who are also at Oxford. The Bubb tribe at Oxford. As it should be. Surely time for my honorary doctorate? That's if I can't be a Dean...

Thursday 2 June 2011

Listening ( not? )

I'm told that we have stopped listening. We are now writing. But heroically I'm carrying on listening and , as I multi task third sector like, I write and listen!

I've lost count of the revises I've now done on our upcoming Report " Delivering real choice". We have a small round table discussion in our attic on media etc handling. DH are threatening to lock me in a cupboard in case I leak. Though they should know by now I don't leak. I tell it brazen like.

I went to a good meeting today with the NHS Confed Partners Network , an umbrella body for all the independent providers in the health service ( the CEO is the dynamic and amusing David Worskett ) . For political reasons the private sector were excluded from the Future Forum so in my area I feel its only right to ensure I hear their views.

And very balanced and sensible they are. I still hold to the view that what matters is what is delivered , not who delivers it as Tony Blair said to us when the ACEVO board went to see him about increasing the role of the third sector in service delivery.

David later sends me some polling results they did. Worth repeating it here ,

"The work was originally done for us by Brunswick Research in late 2009 and fully validated to industry standards. It showed that 74% of respondents strongly agreed (51%) or agreed (23%) that they "don't mind who owns or runs my NHS services as long as the quality of care is right".

In terms of the other "headline" numbers, 85% agreed that "the NHS should be free at the point of use for all treatments" and 74% agreed "the NHS needs to change to survive".

The findings are in line with a number of other surveys done since - which I can't dig out in the time available, but I am certain that the point which can be made with complete confidence. The pollsters said to us " Don't worry about the public - they mostly "get it" to a surprising extent. It's the political classes who don't".

Strangely the Tories seem to have gone very limp on this recently! Did I hear they once said they wanted to redraw the boundaries of the state and citizen?

Recent revelations on Southern Cross , the disgraceful treatment exposed on Panorama last night and the shocking exposure of how elderly people are treated in some of our NHS hospitals shows we will need a rigorous regulator in health. The failure of the Care Quality Commission was worrying , though I heard from many people in this listening exercise that their budget is so constrained they find it problematic to do much more than licencencing. They clearly need to gear up their regulation arm. So having a strong Monitor is also vital.

There has been talk about " monster monitor" but actually their work, and that of the Care quality Commission is crucial in upholding standards. No one sector has a monopoly on good, or bad practise.

Now you probably saw the BBQ in the No 10 garden with Dave and Barack ( and Nick Hurd MP twitching the curtains to take a peep! ). What you probably didn't know was that the spare ribs came direct from my local butcher up Charlbury way , Slaters , purveyors of the Bubb christmas turkey.

And talking of food I harvested my first bowl of delicious Brixton strawberries from the back garden here. And raspberries too. So there Allison Ogden - Newton bragging about yours!!!

Wednesday 1 June 2011

Libraries r us

At last. Oxfordshire County Council have done a U-turn on their disgraceful plan to butcher the county libraries, including the wondrous Charlbury library from whence I blog at weekends.

The new plan involves using volunteers for Charlbury. Eminently sensible as the village is stuffed full of professional types only too happy to eke out a few hours stamping library books.

But does the dear Oxon CC realise that volunteers need training and supervision? And do they think that comes for free?

And this illustrates a fundamental problem with government plans on giving and volunteering. Obviously Charlbury has a plenty source of willing and able people wanting to step up. Brixton does not.

All evidence shows that volunteering levels are higher in affluent areas. And as we know, the council spending cuts have hit poorer councils harder.

And people who give tend to like good causes like starving babies; not HIV or homelessness, let alone asylum seekers.

So this underlines the importance of the State's role in tackling deprivation and inequality. It's why we set up our welfare state!