Wednesday 27 July 2011


Either they have no shame or an odd sense of irony.

I pick up the Evening Standard on the tube and discover the following item.

DWP announced the latest figures on sickness benefit claimants who had been found " fit for work". Trumpeting the results they suggest that more than a million people on benefit are able to work. And yet again DWP fail to mention that 4 in 10 will succeed on appeal.

Steve Webb MP is quoted as saying the figures show many people are able to work with the right support.

But what does Steve Webb MP have to say on the main report today on this very issue?

What do DWP make of the select committee report ? It was not referred to in above press release, yet the release of these figures is one of the problems the Select Committee complain about.

Did officials not give Steve Webb MP this report? Had the press Department not spotted it?

The select committee found that the introduction of new medical assessments to decide whether claimants are eligible for sickness benefits has prompted "fear and anxiety among vulnerable people", partly because the tests have resulted in large numbers of seriously unwell claimants being refused support.

The report states: "It is widely accepted that the Work Capability Assessment [WCA], as introduced in 2008, was flawed. This has been borne out by the high number of appeals and the high success rate of appellants. It was also reflected in the amount of evidence from individuals which expressed grievances with the way they were treated during the process and the accuracy of the outcome."

The MPs estimate the cost to the taxpayer of these appeals at around £50m a year.

None of this was in the DWP press release! Do they think we won't notice?

The disgrace of the allegations made , and the role of ATOS deserve a proper response from DWP. To put out a press release that continues , as the Select Committee says , to pedal stereotypes is the proverbial 2 fingers . It insults the charities that have been trying to get this sorted. Is it not time DWP paid attention to the serious problem over the new tests ?

Tuesday 26 July 2011

Health and fun in Newcastle!

I'm now on the train heading back from 2 days in Newcastle; visiting organisations that the Social Investment Business have made loans to and talking to ACEVO members( and seeing SIB staff in our Newcastle office.)

Newcastle is a great City. The georgian sweep of Grey St and Elgin Sq is one of the most magnificent street vistas in England. And the Tyne , which looked fantastic from the window off my hotel has those lovely bridges. As I'm old I remember that song by, who was it now? " Bridge on the tyne is all mine, all mine".

Indeed the hotel, the Malmaison is in a building that was the first to be built of prestressed concrete. And it was the HQ of the Co-op before they moved to Manchester( so good I used my co-op visa paying my bill! ).

I had a good session with the staff of SIB. We do our main investment analysis here so a great lively bunch who do a key job in judging the viability of loan applications. It was good to do this just 2 days before the interviews for the new CEO of SIB!

Then it was off to Benwell to see "Health Works", a healthy living centre which has had a loan to refurbish facilities like the gym. Sarah Cowling , the CEO is also an ACEVO member and is a strong and determined Leader.

This is a centre that really reinforces my view about how we need to move he health service away from acute hospital pre dominance to treatment and care in community based facilities and activities.

A great example is the community health trainers they employ. One was sitting in reception and offering people blood pressure checks. Obviously I took advantage!

She told me they had one person in who had a test and revealed she had been having these tests at her GP but he had neither told her what he was doing with the machine he mysteriously produced , nor what the result was when he did it!

They run great programmes of exercise , both in the gym and outside ( they also work with the BTCV green gym ), advice on diet, classes for recovering stroke patients and many other activities .

Then back to the hotel for a lively meeting over drinks with some of my ACEVO members in the NE. It was heartening to meet with such a dedicated and forward thinking bunch; both strongly committed to their beneficiaries and to professionalism in our sector. They were warning me the cuts are doing much damage and that the worst is to come. One of them told me they had just had one contract cancelled completly by South Tyneside council ( having been promised they wouldn't ) and the other 2 arbitrarily cut by 15%. And bizarrely, this was done by BT ! Yes , that's BT the telephone people who won the contract to run many of the back office and other services for the Council.

And there was time for gossip too and some friendly chat on the state of our sector and its many players! It was a privilege to meet them and to have my prejudices confirmed that we have many brilliant leaders in our sector.

Then onto a " health "dinner; I was meeting with the Chair, Vice Vhair and the third sector members of one of the Newcastle GP consortia,( must try to remember they are now Clinical Consortia Groups; ugh ), they have called themselves the bridges group.

They have developed an innovative governance structure , with a clinical governing group ( which is just the doctors in the group) and a governing board with an independent chair , the brilliant Chris Drinkwater( a retired GP who is a backbone of the Newcastle third sector and civic scene ).

Chris has produced a remarkably good guide to how to commission non traditional providers for health services. Called " thanks for the Petunias" it is a good guide to how the NHS should be using their sector to help support the self management of long term conditions; a subject dear to my heart and on which I wrote in my Report on Choice and Competition for the recent listening exercise.

Worth a read. Get it from here.

And whilst on the subject I ordered a bread and butter pudding at dinner but when it arrived I decided that is not what I'm supposed to eat so given the other guests I put it to one side!

The morning was a visit to the Walls End People's Centre. The feisty CEO Maureen showed me what they are doing with the £1.4 m loan they have received from SIB as part of the Community Builders Programme. They are using this to join together and refurbish the adjacent Memorial Hall , given to the people of Wallsend by Swan Hunter. There is a rather splendid dance floor. See me and Maureen here!

They also run the cafe at the actual walls end , ie the end of Hadrians Wall. It was rather cool to go and see the site of the Fort on the end of this great Roman achievement.

A metro ride back to lunch with Rob Williamson, the CEO of the Tyne and Wear Community Foundation ( the largest of them ) and Jo Curry , CEO of VONNE. We had lunch, robust discussion , good exchange of views and laughter.

Jo gave me some chilling stats. 49% of charity income in the NE is from statutory sources , as compared with 38% nationally. So they are particularly vulnerable to cuts from councils etc. 73% report a cut in funding, yet 59% report increased demand. 40% have cut staff. A further 53% expect to make more staff redundant.

When there is so much need for what our sector has to offer. What we can do. And how better we are at running public services, this is a crime!

On the way I passed the Norwegian Consulate. I stopped by so that I could pay my respects- they were to have a Book of Condolence but it is not arriving till Friday. Hard not to be affected by the tragic events of that fateful weekend when we are now seeing the faces of all those young people murdered by one evil man.

Monday 25 July 2011

DWP; time to act on disability!

Yesterday's Observer had a letter from the CEO of the Disabled People's Council which highlights growing alarm in charities over the DWP's treatment of disabled people.

I have blogged before about how DWP press releases risk stereotyping disabled welfare claimants as scroungers. It releases statistics, with accompanying media spin, on how the tests highlight people whose applications for disabled benefit fail.

The DWP fail to also press release the fact that on appeal nearly 4 out of 10 applications succeed. That is shameful.

As the letter states ,

" This partial picture feeds the tabloid media's negative narrative on "benefits scroungers" and this in turn has an impact on employer's perception of disability and disabled people".

Charities are now reporting that attitudes to the disabled are deteriorating. DWP need to carefully examine their behaviour. And not just on press releases.

Charities are also concerned that the new medical assessment for the new reformed disability allowance is flawed. Richard Hawkes , CEO of Scope has been outspoken about the dangers of a highly medical assessment meaning people being penalised.

And finally the Commons Select Committee will publish on Tuesday a highly damning report on the way DWP policy on sickness benefit has been implemented. Particular attention has been focused on the role of the company Atos, who undertake the tests , who are heavily criticised. Charities are again reporting that seriously ill people are being found fit for work in the tests this company are carrying out.

What is particularly disturbing is that mental health charities are reporting that some people have been seriously damaged by negative tests; people with mental health problems will always be especially vulnerable to tests. Some charities have reported this as a factor in suicides.

So it is now time the politicians and senior officials in DWP reviewed their policies on disability. It is repugnant that the most vulnerable in society are scapegoated or penalised, either by acts of commission or omission . The welfare state at its best is there to support those in our society with disability. Policies and actions by Government that might harm those most at need must be changed. It's time DWP took action on all this. Charity demands it.

Thursday 21 July 2011

Catch 22

An amazing launch of " the Right Time, Right Support" campaign at the Royal Festival Hall this morning . Joyce Moseley, in her last week as the dynamic and effective CEO of Catch 22 made a splash. And we even had HRH The Princess Royal there to get the campaign off to a great start.

As Joyce pointed out ; in their evaluated projects( which work to support young people in their families and communities and prevent admission to care) they save the State £10 for every £1 they spend.

The Princess Royal is Patron of Catch 22 and we all know in the sector she takes her role as a charity champion very seriously.

As well as launching the new campaign and urging support for the fundraising campaign she spoke about the funding challenges of the sector and how important it is for sector organisations to work together and for us to remain on mission and prepared to do what they think they need to not what a funder says they should to get money.

Had an amusing chat afterwards and discovered she reads " Third Sector" and so I suggested she occasionally reads my wise words. She grinned!

We heard from a number of the beneficiaries of the work of this great charity. One point struck home. A mother said that when they first had a visit from the Catch 22 staff member , unlike the usual social service worker , they arrived minus briefcase, pen or paper. They just chatted. This is exactly the sort of flexible non bureaucratic way our sector operates. Long may it continue.

And good luck Catch 22 under its new CEO and congratulations to Joyce on a stunning career which has pushed the boundaries and advanced our sector.

Bankers Greed

Some months back I called for a tax on bankers bonuses to go to charity. At that time we were expecting a bonus pot of a mere £7 billion.

Well there was no bounds on the greed of the bankers. We now know it was £14 billion. And look how they snuck out the bad news . How they must be thanking the Murdochs.

It seems incredible how little they have learnt. We all remember Bob Diamond telling us all how "we need to move on". Well , the bankers cerainly have. Moved back to their irresponsible and greedy behaviour.

What a contrast to the news coming from the Horn of Africa. I was cheering when I heard The CEO of UNICEF an active ACEVO member calling for us to pay attention to the tragedy unfolding there. How many bankers used their bonuses to support good causes? Some undoubtedly did. I'm sure the majority did not.

So how about the British Bankers Association issuing an urgent appeal to their members to give to the DEC emergency appeal. See here. We need to return to the proper regulation of bonuses. It is a scandal they have been allowed to get away with a staggering £14 billion so soon after we all bailed them out.

The Government needs to return to the need to tax these windfall gains.

Tuesday 19 July 2011


I thought Today's Thought for the Day particularly apposite this morning. The Canon was commenting on today's appearance by the owners of the Evil Empire before the HoC Select Committee.

He pointed out that in the Jewish Calender the Day of Atonement follows the Day of Judgment. So for the Murdochs to appear contrite ( if they do that is ! )before the committee is not enough. There needs to be judgment.

So, we in the sector sit and watch with an element of satisfaction as the Mighty are brought humble and low. However can we be entirely self satisfied?

The recent Government White Paper " Open Public Services" raised the issue of accountability in delivery. As it stated, " providers must be held to account by commissioners and service users....we will ensure that, at both the national and local levels, Commissioning decisions and the performance of providers are transparent and open to public scrutiny".

This is an issue of importance where the sector needs to reflect carefully on how it operates.

I remember vividly some years back arguing with a good friend who Chaired a Health Authority about third sector service delivery. She said to me the problem for her was that if the Council delivers a poor servcie she knows her councillors or knows how to get to their surgery. She knows who sits on a health authority. But does she know who runs Leonard Cheshire, for example. How are our trustees selected? How does she complain about poor service? Do we even have complaints procedures and what if there are a multiplicity of providers ?

If we are delivering more and more taxpayer funded contracts we will need to consider how we demonstrate accountability.

In the recent Health Listening exercise the question of extending measures like FoI and the stipulation to meet in public were debated. Instinctively I recoiled from extending FoI but don't taxpayers have a right to know how we go about delivering a public service? Do we need to be more transparent on our appointment of trustees? Should we hold part of our Trustee Board meetings in public?

Whilst delivery of public service remains small these are issues we have not had to address but the current public appetite for information on how public bodies behave will soon come to rest on us. I do not believe we should adopt public sector clunky bureaucratic process driven approaches. We have better things to do than form filing. But real accountability does not rest there.

Many ACEVO members are already tackling this. There are some great examples of impact reporting and open information and outcome measures. We need to encourage more. Get better at open recruitment of trustees. Consider how we handle complaints better. Think about how to tackle proper requests for information. But based on effective measures of demonstrating outcome not process and bureaucracy or prurient journalistic delight in gossip.

There is a debate to be had here!

Monday 18 July 2011


The recent fast moving saga of the collapse of the Evil Empire has many lessons for anyone in a leadership role. Foremost amongst that must be how the leadership of an organisation - in our sector the Chair and CEO - have the prime duty to set the culture and tone of the organisation.

Is the culture dynamic, flexible , ethical, go getting and results focused? Or blame orientated, macho and results focused by any means fair or foul?

A recent book on Leadership is fascinating and worth a look. The Shift: the future of work is already here (Harper Collins). Lynda Grattan has been conducting research into 60 companies worldwide on challenges facing them in Globalisation , fast moving technology and society changes.

One of the key conclusions is the need for Leaders to build deep relationships with a diverse set of stakeholders, to behave in an authentic manner and to collaborate.

The Shift describes 3 types of relationship working; those that connect to a small group of like minded people, (the posse), those large diverse relation networks that encompass many different types (the big ideas crowd) and those based on deep and loving relationships (the regenerative community).

The first 2 are the basis of much leadership work and are needed. But Lynda suggests that it is the later - regenerative community- that enables a leader to be "authentic".

Many bad leaders we know- or are reading about - are clearly acting in ways that are not authentic. So having a baseline of values and beliefs is ever more crucial.

What is amazing about this book is that it is based on company research but it so very accurately describes why third sector Leaders can be the best leadership model there is. We know this stuff. We know it is right and we can't actually enthuse staff and volunteers without that deep sense of purpose and belief in what we do!

And we know the value of stakeholders and relationships. It is the bedrock of the Leaders task. It is why you cannot be a CEO without the networking and relentless focus on people and partnership. Its what we do. We do it with aplomb when we are at our best.

Friday 15 July 2011

Any Questions?

I have spent the week head burrowed in papers; Sun , Mirror, Express...the lot. And listening assiduously to Newsnight and Today. Getting briefings from the team on the euro and unemployment. The latest on the Evil Empire (Murdoch et al).

For I was to appear on that wonderful BBC Radio 4 programme Any Questions tonight. In Coventry. But alas they phone me last night to say there is an NUJ strike so the programme will not go out today. So the British public are to be denied the pleasure of Bubb's views! And I was so looking forward to it!

Still , never mind I am to be rescheduled!

It meant for example that I only sipped my glass of rather flat bubbly at the Respublica summer launch last night. Wanted to be on my most alert for the public!

Philip Blond, the irrepresible force of nature was on top form. A little too top for us standing around listening it must be said. We also had Lord David Freud and Greg Clarke MP, both on form extolling the virtues of citizen and sector power in service delivery.

You can just see David Freud speaking!

Greg had earlier met with Lord Rennard, Ralph Michell and members of the Big Society Commission to talk about the report. Greg was enthusiastic. Believed it offered a good way forward. I had preciously spoken to the Bishop of London (a member of the Commission) on it and he thought the Government response was good.

Finally, talking about the Bishop he gave a tremendous sermon at my Vow taking and I wanted to use a particulary brilliant and beautiful quote from that. He was quoting from the Chief Rabbi who was speaking on the 400th Anniversary of the Commissioning of the King James Bible.

"The texts a culture teaches its children shape their landscape of literacy, their horizons of aspiration. People who can quote the Bible walk tall. They carry with them a treasure no one can take away from them. They sing with the tongues of poets, walk with the wisdom of Solomon, find solace in the soul-music of the Psalms, and hope in the blazing visions of the prophets. In an age of blogs and twitters, the King James translation remains the Beethoven of the soul, the imperishable music of spiritual grandeur"

Surely not thinking of my Blog!

Thursday 14 July 2011

Knightly Vows

Well, it was full gear today as I made my way to St Paul's Cathedral to take my Vows as a Knight. You will be pleased to know that I have "promised and vowed that I will maintain and defend my duty to God and my neighbour". But in a way that is exactly what ACEVO exists to do as a charity promoting the leadership role of CEOs.

It was a stunning ceremony; complete with State Trumpeters and many people in robes and medals. As you can see The Bishop of London was at his splendid best.

A lunch reception afterwards at the Apothecary's Hall. I was there with my parents and my niece Miranda who, as you can see, is a dead ringer for Kate!

Back to the office later and the staff bemused to see their CEO in full morning dress!

Last night saw the launch of "ACEVO Solutions" our new social enterprise. A rather splendid party at the Grange Hotel near St Pauls. 400 guests. A band. Ice cream trolley. Videos. And mercifully, no speech by me! Oliver Rothschild and Tom Flood, who are leading ACEVO Solutions, were on marvellous form guiding the events of the evening. I was abstemious as I wanted to be in a fit state for my Vow taking!

Tuesday 12 July 2011

Open Public Services : power and choice!

The government launched their White Paper on Open Public Services yesterday. I spoke at the launch with John Cridland of the CBI in support of the principles of reform together with the PM.

I said that the PM probably did not know , but some 5 years previously , John and I had spoken at another event with the then PM Tony Blair when he was making a major speech on public services ( with the newly appointed Ed Miliband in the audience! )

I was making the point that reform is a journey, and their are major vested interests along the way who want to frustrate reform. To much amusement I used a rather apposite quote from Machiavelli.

"There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. For the reformer has enemies in all those who profit by the old order, and only lukewarm defenders in all those who would profit by the new order."

– Niccolo Machiavelli

I had been told to keep my remarks to a strict 3 minutes. It's a good limit. This forces you to be absolutely clear and focussed. To make your points succinctly. It is a great discipline. And it certainly stopped me waffling.

The speech by Cameron was an excellent exposition of the need for reform. He could not have been clearer on the role of our sector, on the barriers we face and the potential for growth.

Cameron sketched out his vision for reform of the public sector arguing that the “old-fashioned, top down, take what you’re given” culture has to be overhauled.

“Let me tell you what change looks like,” he said in his speech in London. “It’s about ending the old big government, top down way of running public services ... releasing the grip of state control and putting power into people’s hands. The old dogma that Whitehall knows best – it’s gone. There will be more freedom, more choice and more local control.”

It was good to hear the prime minister give his reassurance that new entrants from our sector will be competing on a level playing field with incumbent providers and will consult on whether an independent monitoring system should be set up in various sectors to reinforce that.

Cameron promised to see through the changes. “I know there are those who thought we might be pulling back or losing heart ... so let me assure you of this: we are as committed to modernising our public services as we have ever been. I am not going to make the mistakes of my predecessors ... blocking reform, wasting opportunities and wasting time,” he said.

I think my own speech- a strictly time limited 3 minutes- went down OK and it was certainly name checked by the PM on 3 occasions, though I note I have become " Steve".

He commented on the opening up of services to a diversity of providers. He said that this was not a threat to essential services but " promise of better services for everyone ". This is very much core to ACEVO's belief that a greater role for the third sector will provide more citizen and community focused services.

More detail on the White paper is on the ACEVO website.

I suggested we now need to build a coalition of support for reform over the next few months of the " listening exercise" which lasts to September. We will be working on that and we will be consulting ACEVO members and others in the sector on the White Paper. Departments will publish their plans to implement reform in November so we must ensure those plans have a clear focus on how we can give more power and choice to citizens and communities.

Of course the questions to the PM were on another subject altogether! It was all rather dramatic as you could see notes being passed to the press there with the latest revelations on HM and on Gordon. All quite appalling. So I doubt there will be great media on public service reform this week. Still, it's useful briefing for me as I am on "Any Questions" this week !

Monday 11 July 2011

The Sector Wedding of the Year

Whitekirk is an ancient Church, the original structure is 12c , set in the rolling fertile hillsides of Lothian, not far from the ancient city of Dunbar. It was a famous medieval centre of pilgrimage as a nearby medieval well dedicated to St Baldrick! It had healing powers. Pope Pious II walked barefoot in the snow from Dunbar to this church to give thanks for his survival in a fierce storm at sea.

This beautiful church was the setting for the Nuptials of Seb Elsworth and Lucy Stephens ( whose family farm is nearby ).

A moving ( if presbyterian ) service and the church was packed with friends and family and team ACEVO.

Seb's best man was John Schless who used to work for David Fielding aa a head hunter but is now a senior director at the national Autistic Society.

Lucy wore a stunning lace wedding dress. And looked quite amazing. Seb had a new suit but would have looked better in a morning suit, as recommended by his Boss.

They were driven to the Wedding Breakfast in a vintage rolls Royce belonging to her uncle and normally in a motor museum!

Then the fun began. The usual revealing speeches. As the boss I made it my business to quiz Seb's uni friends on what ye was like. But it appears he was what you expect of Seb; rather altruistic and devoted to his role ( he was Uni President ). However I understand his penchant for revealing lycra cycle shorts and vest were a legend! But Seb's rectitude was apparent early as someone said that Seb was always the lone adult in a sea of adolescents!

There was a ceileh and then disco. I am proud to say I out danced my work colleagues, though Carina and Ralph, when they finally managed to get off their arses and leave the kilts alone gave a stirling performance. Many of my team appeared to lack the necessary oomph to do the Gay Gordans and other such splendid gaelic dances. Must be my scots- irish blood that ensures I threw myself into it with abandon! But I'm pleased to say there is no video evidence of all this (I have confiscated Dr Kyle's iphone).

A rather lazy sunday recovering in a charming pub hotel in East Linton. I was rather hoping to have had another day on leave but had to change my flight to get back Sunday for the launch of the " Open Public Services" White Paper. More to follow!

Friday 8 July 2011

More choice, More Power

A good roundtable in No 10 yesterday to talk about how to promote Public service reform. Key ministers like Danny Alexander, Oliver Letwin with commentators, CBI etc. The PM was also there for a period which , given other events, demonstrates this is very much part of his agenda for driving a stronger society.

One of the aims was to drive a coalition for change. As someone described it " a vested interest for reform". I told the PM that ACEVO was " on the bus " on this journey- though its a " community transport bus" ! He was amused!

But it is right we must build a coalition for reform. The White Paper will be out next week. Although I'm sure we will want it to go further we need to support the aims amd intentions of the changes. And as culture and meaning is important we need to blow the trumpet for " More choice. More power".

I have written to both the PM and to Nick Clegg on this.

And on this subject I see that the Baring foundation have set up a panel to look at " independence" of the sector in the light of more public service delivery etc. Intersting there is such light representation of actual charities delivering public services as opposed to commentators and names. I'm all for philisophical debate but I prefer the actual job of getting power into the hands of citizens and communities though reformig public services and giving the third sector more power to deliver.

And will the new panel be looking at the independence of charities dependent on grant funding from foundations I wonder. At least government has a democratic legitimacy. Will the panel be casting an eye over how foundations appoint their trustees and how independent they are?

Thursday 7 July 2011

Central Hall, Whitehall and The Wedding

Up early yesterday to read the Bible. I was looking for a quote on feast and famine to use at my keynote speech to the major Action Planning conference in Westminster Hall. Action Planning are a great organisation and ACEVO have been working with them on events for a decade. They are real sector stars.

I was followed by Francis Maude MP. I was flattered to hear him describe me as the best advocate our sector has. He said what I say sometimes is uncomfortable for Government but is always pragmatic and realistic. That is certainly what I aim to do leading ACEVO. Work with Government when we can promote our common objectives and oppose ( if necessarily publicly). That is sometimes a difficult path to follow. Gobby in the press one minute. Inside government the next. But leadership is complex. It involves compromise and judgment. Perhaps at times I get that wrong. Clearly at other times I get it right or I wouldn't have had a commission from the PM on health choice and competition. The bottom line is you follow your instinct and conviction.

So it was today when I was due to fly off to Edinburgh. On leave. My partner and I are off to the Sector Wedding of the year. My marvellous Director of strategy Seb Elsworth is marrying Lucy Stephens in the Borders on Saturday. I am leading the team ACEVO attendance at this important occasion. And The Blog will carry the official photographs in the manner of Hello Magazine.

But I have had to delay my flight as I've been asked in to somewhere in Whitehall to talk about public service reform. It's a matter of huge importance for the third sector and I am strongly backing the Government's aim to give more power to citizens and communities. We are expecting a White Paper on this sometime soon. I hope it will be bold.

Blair resplendent

Tony Blair was without doubt a great PM. Just how good , I was reminded at an event for the Blair faith foundation at the British Museum on Tuesday night.

A discussion lead by Ben Page at MORI with Tony as the main speaker. He was on top form. The audience just lapped him up.

Ben reported on an Ipos- Mori survey which shows that 75% have a faith or belief. Tony took that up in his remarks about how we cannot ignore the faith dimension in solving political disputes.

Tony's theme was " religion matters". You cannot understand the modern world if you don't understand faith. He is right and the role of faith is hugely underrated in national discourse. It remains one of those issues we should not really talk about. Yet faith matters hugely in our third sector.ACEVO membership has many members amongst faith groups and charities that have a Christian , Jewish or Muslim background.

I asked Tony a question about faith and charities; I remarked that if politicians don't do God the third sector certainly does. In response he recounted the story of how he wanted to end one of his broadcasts with "God bless Britain", much in the way US Presidents do. This caused a major upheaval in No 10 amongst advisors and in the end he gave in and did not do it!

After some rather splendid networking I was able to pop into the Commons for the final knockings of the annual parliamentary voluntary sector reception. A most pleasant place to be- on the terrace at the Commons on a balmy summer evening.

Tuesday 5 July 2011

The Select Committee on Public Administration

Up early to check through what I might say in front of the Commons Select Committee hearing on the Big Society. But was distracted by listening to the marvellous Reith Lecture by Daw Suu and then hearing her speak from her house in University Ave, Rangoon.

Daw Suu is a remarkable woman. An example of leadership that is truly inspiring. Burma suffers under one of the moist brutal military regimes in the world and yet its people, who I have got to know partly over the years I have been visiting and working with the Church there are stoic and remain hopeful.

One day the regime will fall. We must hope that Daw Suu will be there to guide her people as their rightfully elected Leader.

I arrived at a rather hot and sweaty committee room corridor in the Commons for the hearing. I was appearing with Kevin Curley and the TUC just to give it spice. Needless to say my views were somewhat divergent from the TUC which has an unhealthy " public sector good", the rest bad attitude and spent time trotting out the usual stuff on wicked capitalists out to screw the system and deliver bad services at enormous profits. Quite why this means we should not have more delivery though the third sector was not elucidated.

I argued, as you would expect, for radical reform of public service that puts power in the hands of citizens and communities. I was able to refer to my recent work in the health service and my Report on choice and Competition which shows how competition needs to be part of the tool kit for delivering more choice. A diversity of providers is what people want and there were some dodgy surveys quoted to try and demonstrate people don't want choice.

A helpful question from Charlie Elphicke MP, who turns out to be excellent and clearly heading for greater things ( you read it here first ! ) .

So Competition has a role to play. And if we are true to our beliefs as a sector we must think it is right that if a private sector provider can deliver a better service to our beneficiaries that must be good. Our aim has to be what is the best service , rather than arguing about whether it is provided by the public sector or not.

I made clear that we expect the government to be bold in their open public services White Paper expected in a few weeks. Opening up services to delivery through more third sector bodies. I'm hoping the PM will face down those critics who want him to go " softly , softly" on reform. It's essential we drive forward change and not back track in the face of the producer vested interest.

There was an interesting interlude when Robert Halford MP showed his great interest in what ACEVO does, what I am paid and what the social investment business does. Obviously I was delighted to be able to talk about both organisations and our stirling work, though quite why this was related to Big society was less clear.

Interesting too to see my dear friend Quentin Letts in the audience listening intently to my words of wisdom. He has written warmly about me recently on no less that 2 occasions. A particularly charming piece on my chubbiness ( he called me "bubblet "; shock horror ) so I wonder what will now emerge. I do hope he was taken with my splendid summer suit by a well known Italian designer that I picked up in the Harvey Nicks sale- and as always a splendid tie which outshone any of those around the necks of the gathered MPs.

And the Committee seemed fascinated by my Blog which made it in numerous mentions. I suspect that was because I had to take them to task from a previous hearing where some naughtiness was aired about the role of charities in delivering services and speaking out, as well as shocking and wrong attacks on big charities.

I was even asked to start off on that very topic. There was quite a lot of discussion on campaigning. In my view charities that don't campaign and advocate for their beneficiaries are failing. We don't deliver public services because there is a managerial case for it, but because we believe passionately we do it better for our people. And we take governments to task when they get it wrong and we work with them when they get it right.

Friday 1 July 2011

Big Society and Europe

I'm in a conference talking about above! And where else would you talk about Europe but in a Stately Home? You will enjoy my photos of Wilton Park in the glorious countryside of rural Sussex. As befits a Knight I'm in a rather grand room with a 4 Poster bed!

The highlight will be Saturday morning where Nick Herbert MP, the Police Minister, and I will talk about public service reform.

There is a clear agenda for Europe in reforms of state services and the role of civil society and third sector organisations. I think our bigger, stronger society is an idea that has resonance across the EU. Measures, such as widening commissioning to drive up third sector delivery, social investment and social innovation need to be placed much higher on the EU agenda.

That's why I so enjoy my role leading Euclid, our European third sector organisation. Across Europe there are interesting models of delivery of public services that we can learn from.

In the recent review of health that I led on competition I was aware of different EU health models- for example in Germany a third of the country's hospitals are still run by the third sector. I would have liked to develop this theme more in my report but I judged politically this would not be wise as we can be rather xenophobic about lessons from foreigners!

But now I must finish my Blog as the great Blond has arrived (that's Philip Blond of Respublica by the way!) and is about to speak...