Friday 30 September 2011

Harvest time

Recovering from Liverpool in the calm and delight of the English countryside at its most glorious: the Cotswolds. Cameron's constituency so a neat run up to the Tories next week in Manchester.

The autumnal colours, the sun and the harvest preparations! The Hound and I are out for a picnic in the woods and lanes around Ditchley Park, a fine Jacobean mansion house that once served as a Lodge for Elizabeth and James to enjoy the Wytchwood Forest stags and deer hunting.

So as we head into the weekend here are some images from our walk.

Thursday 29 September 2011

Leaving Liverpool

So its farewell Liverpool. A stunning city; all the more beautiful when its bathed in glorious sun. I had a few hours before the train and as the Roman Catholic Cathedral was just around the corner from my hotel I went to visit this remarkable modern Architectural gem designed by Gibberd.

But the plan was to build something much more grand. Lutyens had designed what was to be the worlds largest Cathedral. If built it would have dwarfed the Anglican cathedral being built along Hope St. The Lutyens crypt however is complete and shows just how massive this Cathedral would have been.

Liverpool RC Cathedral

Liverpool Anglican Cathedral as seen from the RC one

Liverpool has always been home to a huge population of Irish; whether Catholic or Protestant and sectarianism was rife in the past (hence the 2 rival football teams as also in Glasgow).

I have my own links with Liverpool. My Limrick ancestors have a vault in the Church at Crosby for back in the late 18th century Thomas Limrick, my great great great grandfather's brother came here as a Doctor. 4 generations of his descendants are interred in Crosby. They were Anglo Irish, like their cousins the Chavasses and it was Bishop Chavasse, 2nd Bishop of Liverpool, who was responsible for the Anglican Cathedral, as well as founding St Peter's College, Oxford.

St George's Hall from Lime st station

At the conferences I have been talking about the power of social investment. I think that we have yet to develop a strong alliance of those porganisations in our sector who are developing this new market. I know that our new CEO at SIB wants to do just that. So good to see that headhunter extrodinaire David Fielding ( is searching for someone to replace John Kingston to run CAF Venturesome, having just found Jonathan Jenkins for SIB.

They will report to that sector guru and fixer John Low (my ex Chair at ACEVO). I have always been impressed with Venturesom; it has a great reputation and been a key player in this emerging market in the early days when many in the sector were anti loans. I suspect this will be a very attractive role and given all the recent development within Social Investment, it’s superb timing for someone to come in.

We really do need to grow the strength and depth of this market.

Now I'm on a train to Manchester. I'm speaking at the ACEVO North Conference. I'm warning that the cuts our sector face from local councils next year will be worse than this year. We must not be fooled into thinking that the cuts have happened and we can relax. The local government chronicle have shown that the majority of councils they surveyed (65%) expect to make bigger cuts this year. The cuts have severley damaged our sector. Our recent acevo pay survey showed that 41% of members have had to make redundancies. So expect more next year. 32% have had to reduce service levels. So expect more next year.

We need more transparency from councils on what they spend on the sector and how budget cuts affect us, as compared with other service provision. I have written to Greg Clark to ask for this, which he has promised, to happen quickly so it is in place for the council budget round.

But most of all we need to see councils looking at the sector as part of the solution, not part of their budget problem.

You can read the full speech here.

Wednesday 28 September 2011

Liverpool : Day 2

Not going to bed till 2 is not to be recommended. Especially when one is getting older. Though lots of deals, contacts and networking. Its the essence of what a third sector leader needs to do. Pushing the cause. Getting ideas. People who share your ideals and can help you in pushing your organisation. Though whether this is a healthy way to do it must be questioned. I do at least remember the golden rule; don't drink too much. And given that most of what gets served at fringe meetings is not that appetising that works for me!

I'm now at a pause; sitting in the late evening sun. By Albert dock- Liverpool is a brilliant city and the glories of our once omnipresent Empire are all around.

I was up early (far too frankly) to speak to the Leader of Liverpool City Council. The Social Investment Business has invested over £11.5m in 47 projects around Liverpool. We have generated extra funding through our loans and had a significant social impact. So we want to work more closely with the City council. I was impressed by Cllr Joe Anderson. He completely got the point of us working together to build more infrastructure and service delivery by the third sector.

We are to have a further more detailed meeting to see how we leverage funds by partnership working. It huely inmportant that we develop better relationships between councils and the sector. More cuts are on the way. Getting council Leaders to understand that they can work with the sector to deliver more effective community based services is key.

Its a message I share with Caroline Flint MP who is the shadow local government minister at a meeting after.

And I develop this at the RSA- Social Investment Business fringe meeting. Matthew Taylor is superb. He made the point that what Labour missed, and the Tories may be too, is that public service reform is not about better management. Its not, as he put it, "new public management". It is about socialising public services. Reconnecting them to people. It is about helping society solve their problems, not solving them for them.

This is absolutely right. Its what governments have missed. It is core to the third sector message. We deliver better connected services. We do that because we are not new managerialists but have developed our services to meet what beneficiaries want, not what we think they should have.

It is our time to deliver more. But does labour get this? Seems only half heartedly.

Listening to Ed's speech I like it when he said, "Take on the vested interests for the public interest.".

Yes Ed. And that means the vested interests in the health service and in public services generally.

I see Ed later at the gala dinner. SERCO have asked me to join their table with various council leaders. And amusingly it turns out that the Leader of Enfield council was one of the founding members of Acevo. I told him next year we will celebrate or silver jubilee and we will invite him to our big celebration.

Ed gives a speech which I think is much better than his set piece. Its unscritped. Delivered without those long pauses and 3 word sentences. When he does this he comes across as a really warm and committed guy. This image has still not made it to the public. It will.

Then on to Co-op reception. More dancing. I discover there is a video clip of me doing the twist. I take out an injunction to prevent it getting on You Tube!

And in between times I was doing media interviews on the "health lottery", calling on Desmond to up his giving to charities to 28p. I hammer the message home on BBC breakfast, on ITN and regional shows. I also discover the Indi on Sunday had named my blog as one of the top blogs to read- though they got my picture mixed up with someone else! And one of the news reports quotes from my blog on the lottery. The power of the Blog!!

Anyway , let me leave you with another rather lovely picture of Ed paying tribute to Blog author....

Finally, its been good doing joint work with ncvo. The joint fringes have been going well and we are now planning our joint conference on localism. It will be in Birmingham on December 9th. The Government's Big Society agenda has signalled the end of centralised, top-down decision making. Or has it? A new era of localism has been signalled, with an emphasis on empowered and engaged citizens, local decision-making and accountability. That's the policy: but what's the reality?

Knowing how to benefit from the opportunities created by this agenda is crucial for us to grow against viscous cuts.

Further details can be seen here:

Expect more joint events from us and ncvo. A new era of cooperation and detente. But you may have to wait for videos of me and Stuart doing the twist...

Tuesday 27 September 2011

Now its Liverpool!

Unpacked. Packed. Now in Liverpool. Arrived in time for another of the CityUk - SIB lunches; this time with Angela Eagle MP (although in the end she was a no show!). The lunch was in the gorgeous Hope St Hotel and on the balcony you get a fabulous view of the 2 great Cathedrals; as seen here!

Must say I prefer the Anglican!

Then into the conference, some media on the Desmond lottery (he is only giving 20p to charity- not 28p as the national lottery does, so I call on him to raise it to 28p if he really cares about health charities).

We had our joint acevo-ncvo fringe event and a fringe with Community, the union that organises in our sector but has progressive views on our empowering role in delivering public services. Later on we have our( now a great institution) third sector social. Ed Miliband MP comes and makes a marvellous speech about our sector's role, especially after the riots, and talks about the pain we are suffering because of cuts. He is most effective and talks about how he feels he is " coming home" as his first job was as third sector Minister. And he made the most charming remarks about yours truly. I wasn't blushing!

Dr Kyle spoke for the sector in saying at times of gloom we should also remember to have fun and keep our spirits up!

But the highlight was the Beatles bootleg band. Fantastic. And as one would expect of a Leader I was first onto the dance floor. But as i explained to my young team, I was around for them first time. Indeed I used to practice my " twist" with my 2 aunts! Did it better in those days I suspect. And if Stuart had been there we would have twisted together!

There are some photos circulating of the whirling Boss but I am having them censored. Our music quite outshone the Guardian Party next door and the rendition of "Hey Jude" by the assembled mighty third sector throng nearly brought the roof down.

Friday 23 September 2011

Day2; the judging of the social innovation competition!

Now where would you judge social innovation but in a 17th century church!

The judging panel

The church

There has been a star judging panel and presenters, including the vice President of the European Parliament. My good friend Oliver Rothschild has come over to join us, though he , like me , has been rather wilting in the heat.

Of course with the wonders of technology you are never far from the UK news and so spent some time talking to The Times on the disgraceful new development of the Desmond" health " lottery. He intends to only give 20p in the pound to health, whereas the national lottery, is giving 28p to good causes. So if peopole switch to Desmond from the national lottery charities will loose out. I agree with the smart quote from Nick wilkie of London youth that he is profiteering from the goodwill of the British people!

Health Lottery ‘profiteering on the back of public’s goodwill' - The Times

Charity leaders have criticised a new lottery being launched next week by Richard Desmond, the owner of Channel 5, for giving less to good causes than the National Lottery.
The new game, called the Health Lottery, will compete directly with the National Lottery. Mr Desmond plans to promote it heavily across his publications, including the Daily Express, Daily Star and OK! magazine. The draw will be shown at primetime on ITV1 and Channel 5 on Saturday nights, and the maximum prize is £100,000.
The Health Lottery will give 20.34p of each £1 ticket to good causes, just 0.34p above the legal minimum it is required to give as a “society lottery”, and it will not be required to pay lottery duty. The National Lottery, which is not a society lottery, gives 28p per £1, plus another 12p in lottery duty.
Camelot, which runs the National Lottery under licence, is permitted a maximum profit of 0.5p per £1 gambled. The Health Lottery, in which Mr Desmond is the sole investor, declined to say what level of profit it expected. In its instructions to retailers, the Health Lottery says: “When telling customers about the Health Lottery, remember the main features . . . Proceeds go to support local health-related good causes.”
If the Health Lottery meets its target of selling at least £250 million of tickets in the first year, it will give £20 million less to good causes than if the same sum had been spent on National Lottery tickets. Under the Gambling Act 2005, a society lottery can sell a maximum of £10 million of tickets a year. The Health Lottery has registered 51 society lotteries, giving it potential sales of £510 million.
While lotteries cannot be run for commercial gain, the Health Lottery can profit by acting as an “external lottery manager” for the society lotteries.
Sir Stephen Bubb, chief executive of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations, described the Health Lottery as “a pretty disgraceful development”, adding: “The Government needs to look at lottery regulations to ensure it’s made transparent to people who play that this new lottery is giving a lot less per £1 to good causes.”
Nick Wilkie, the chief executive of London Youth, a network of 400 youth organisations, said: “It seems to me that if one runs a lottery and gives away less to good causes than the National Lottery, then one is profiteering on the back of the British public’s goodwill.”
Martin Hall, the chief executive of the Health Lottery, said that he hoped to expand it into “a billion-pound business”. Mr Desmond has signed up more than 40,000 retailers to sell tickets for his Health Lottery — 12,000 more than the number of shops selling tickets for the National Lottery.
The maximum prize is £100,000, which is guaranteed for all five correct numbers. Three correct numbers wins £50 and four £500. Tickets go on sale on September 29.
Winning odds: 2 million to 1 to win the Health Lottery top prize of £100,000.
It is 14 million to 1 to win the Lotto top prize (shared, but usually several million pounds)

Thursday 22 September 2011

Social Innovation; action not words?

I've donned my Euclid hat ( it's European so lots of gold braid) and arrived in Naples for the Euclid AGM, our international innovation conference and competition.

Since Euclid ( the European third sector leaders body ) was established in 2007 by the 3 founders in the UK, France and Sweden, we have come a long way. Now established as a key influencer in Brussels on financial matters relating to civil society; it has been particularly effective in arguing for social investment support for civil society.

On Nov 18 th Commissioner Barnier and 2 of his Commissioner colleagues will hold a conference in Brussels and we expect an announcement of a new initiative on social enterprise and innovation . I have blogged previously about the work we have done as part of this process in Krakov.

It is clear that the EU are learning lessons from what has been happening in the UK , especially from the examples of the social investment business and the Big Society Bank. They have discovered social enterprise and innovation! How far this goes beyond a mere buzz phrase into real support for the sector will tested in actions.

With the support of the EU and various partners we have organised a social innovation competition to take place at the same time as our annual meeting. As one of the judges I helped sort 12 finalists who will make presentations to the judges panel tomorrow.

The conference is taking place in the rather grand Chamber of Commerce in Naples; once the home of the Stock Exchange. Photos here show the scale.

We have had the usual plethora of officials and the Mayor , but prominent among them was Mercedes Bresso, the President of the EU Committee on the regions which demonstrates that the EU may be moving to complement their grant programmes with social loans through a social investment fund for europe. Who knows?

I'm speaking on the lessons learnt from the 300 investees of the futurebuilders programme. Its an impressive record- considering the rules were that applications had to be " unbankable" our default rate at less than 5% is impressive. But it demonstrates that this is a sector that has for too long been excluded from the loan finance sector. The lesson across Europe as well as the UK is that as well as access to social finance we need to break into the mainstream venture capital market. an initiative from the EU could help in this march to a growing civil society.

Leaving Birmingham

I spoke at the SIB-RSA fringe meeting- very well attended, with the witty Ben Page and frenetic Matthew Taylor and journalist Mary-Anne Seigert . I challenged the delegates on public service reform, pointing out the example of that great liberal William Beverage who regretted how far the third sector was pushed to the margins in the welfare state reforms. I suggested that reform of our public service is a great liberal cause; championing the cause of citizens and communities against the monopolistic state service. I said I was disappointed by the attitude of the Lib-Dems on health service reform and their failure to back the right to challenge. Surely it can't be right to oppose change that increases choice for citizens, and allies with traditional vested interests not communities! I seemed to get some support for this point from the meeting.

Rather disturbing news of the leaks from education about advisors in the Department sending private emails to avoid the terms of the FoI legislation. What was particularly worrying was the revelation that they were looking for ways of avoiding procurement rules in order to give money to the Free Schools Network.

It is good that Government supports the work of charities through funding, but this needs to be transparent and fair. So the strategic partnership programme from OCS was a process open to organisations to bid. This is important in order to avoid the impression of a behind the scenes deal to give state money to a favoured cause. I'm sure this recent press has not helped them.

There are also lessons here for the sector about the need for openess. ACEVO has been consulting its members on the issue of the FoI legislation. Whilst there is no desire for the legislation to be extended; that would be a huge administrative and financial burden , we ought to think about how we comply with the spirit of the law when we are asked about how we have spent public money; whether that is through a grant or a contract. Transparency is important.

Tuesday 20 September 2011

With the Lib-Dems!

In Birmingham for the first Conference of the season: the liberal-democrats.

"Community Futures", the liberal democrat paper on the sector raises issues about sector independence. But I wonder just how much the Party "gets" the sector. There are certainly many third sector folk in the party and traditionally the party has been strongly behind community activism.

But over recent years, as the lib-dems have grown in local government their commitment to community activism seems to have dimmed. So in the Lords they have been critical of the localism bill and the various rights to challenge and acquire assets. They have opposed the extension of the right to challenge to health. Some lib-dems have dismissed the role of the third sector in health as a "trojan horse". Hardly flattering to the hundreds of thousands of staff and volunteers who work in health and social care.

Of course there are also great advocates of our sector : MPs like Jenny Willot MP or my friend Leila Ferguson , CEO of West Berks Mencap.

Supporting citizens and community organisations against the power of state monopoly or councils ought to be core to liberalism. Our sector should be central to Lib Dem thinking. I am meeting a senior councillor, Gerald Vernon-Jackson from the LGA and Portsmouth to talk about how to develop that relationship.

Arrived in time for a splendid lunch with CityUK, the financial and banking organisation we are working with as SIB in promoting a more responsive financial sector. Lord Newby was the key speaker- he is their " spokesperson" on treasury matters in the Lords and chairs the all party group on social enterprise. Dick and I have known each other for years ; he is a good and committed politician and made clear he believes the banking sector needs to lend to the third sector and support innovation.

One of the values of attending these party shindigs ( and I'm doing all 3 ) is the people you meet; other members, lobbyists, politicos ,media and friends. So an afternoon of meetings which culminated in the event of the day; the joint ACEVO-NCVO fringe meeting on sector independence and campaigning.

This is a deliberate sign of the times. We intend to do a lot more joint meetings, events and conferences together , as Martyn Lewis, the Chair of NCVO said.

It was a good meeting: Dame Suzi Leather ,Dame Clare Tickell and Baroness Clare Tyler.

Clare Tickell talked about the balance between being sycophantic and friendly to government with being critical. How do you speak truth to power? She said that many of their supporters and volunteers are very angry about what is happening to young people in communities. So campaigning is crucial.

Clare Tyler had an interesting perspective as having been in Government and now for the last 4 years in the sector. She rightly pointed out that the debate on independence is not an either or. It's more nuanced than some pundits would have you believe. She said we can become a little too obsessive about this issue.

I had this very discussion with Caroline Slocock, Director of civil exchange, who is doing the work on the newly established panel on independence. It was reassuring! I was worried this would be too negative and critical but clearly Caroline is well up to the more nuanced debate we need in this important area.

Late to bed.....a breakfast meeting beckoning.....

Monday 19 September 2011

Expanding social investment markets; news!

I blogged on the work in Krakov on a submission to the EU on social investment. This has now been submitted. The response and , we hope, new initiative will be announced by Commissioner Barnier in Brussels on Nov 18th.

The submission from the Task Force for a European Social Investment Facility in response to the consultation on promoting Social Investment Funds as part of the Social Business Initiative.(See submission here)

And to aid the process a Social Investment Business task force is finalising a report we will launch in October.

This review has looked at the steps needed to a thriving social investment market and brings a ‘bottom-up’ perspective from organisations already using and seeking social investment, balanced with comments from financiers and policy makers .

It will be worth reading. More details in a future blog.

All this shows how much progress is being made to expand social investment markets. I'm looking forward to the first meeting of the Big society Capital Trust !

Thursday 15 September 2011

The Riots; The meeting

In Bethnal Green,just nearby the famous Brick Lane for a meeting of about 100 , called by NCVO, to discuss the riots.

Good on NCVO for bringing us all together. But this was not always the voluntary and community sector at its best. There was probably a fundamental fault in assuming that only local voluntary groups know about communities so whilst there was copious representation from cvs people ( as there should be ) there were few of the national charities who have huge understanding and knowledge of the causes and solutions on riots. The children's and youth charities for example, or the health , environmental and work charities and social enterprises. But of course always a problem in our diverse sector to be both focused at such meetings as well as representative!

This led at times to an unbalanced discussion. Indeed at times degenerated into a passing resemblance of a caricature assembly of the Guardian reading left. Perhaps there are issues about police aggression , racism and bias and cuts and I'm with those who hate the Daily Mail but that is an inadequate explanation of what went wrong. And criminal behaviour has to be punished, not excused, whilst also seeking for ways to prevent it.

But enough grump.

I liked much of what IDS was saying in today's Telegraph. Early intervention strategies, targeted work with gangs through third sector organisations and old fashioned one to one mentoring and support. As he rightly says you cannot arrest your way out of riots.

And let's be clear that whilst it would be asinine to suggest the cuts caused the riots , it is absolutely true that building social cohesion and community regeneration will not be done on the back of a cut and battered third sector. The cuts are not over. Worse is to come. My ACEVO members are telling me firmly that more cuts will not just damage them but seriously impact the work they do with vulnerable and marginalised citizens and communities.

There was much criticism of how many people were sent to jail. I'm afraid I diverged with the mass on this. It was entirely right for people who robbed and rioted to be punished and indeed jailed. Exemplary sentences were needed. Clearly some of this was over the top reaction but the issue is what then happens to those who are jailed. Our record on rehabilitation is lamentable. The real worry is that those who are jailed are set on a life of re offending.

The Government promised a rehabilitation revolution. We need to ensure that rhetoric is translated to reality – the brilliant Rob Owen of St Giles Trust is chairing an ACEVO taskforce on exactly this, and they are due to report soon.

The St Giles Trust and other programmes to meet prisoners at the gate and provide mentoring must be extended. One action that the Government should commit to is a promise that every person jailed for rioting will be guaranteed a place in one of those programmes. So Ken - announce that at your conference !

There is a strong and wrong tendency in some community groups to assume communities are homogeneous, are progressive and speak with one voice. They don't.

And a big mistake to assume that because you are a community organisation that means you always speak for all the community. So when opinion polls show people wanted rioters jailed it difficult to believe community leaders who say jail was wrong.

There is also a potentially damaging view that community is just about place. It is not. There are communities of interest and don't assume they are always welcome in communities of place. Scope has recently been campaigning about how people with learning disabilities are harassed and harmed in many communities. So the role of national charities in protecting and defending communities needs better recognition. This means we need the voice of local and community groups and we need the voice of national too.

And many of our national charities have huge experience of local community needs. BTCV in their sustainability volunteering work or Action for Children in their work running Sure Start have exactly the sort of experience of what is happening in marginalised communities that we may miss out on if we just assume only local organisations know what.

I live by Brixton Prison and the noise from there over the last month has been noticeable. Yesterday I saw Nick Hardwick confirming that there have been disturbances in Brixton and Feltham where many rioters were sent. There has been an increase in gang activity inside prisons with people being recruited. He says most of those sentenced are mainly sleeping in their cells. This is a disaster.

And the latest unemployment figures are a further disaster. The growing evidence of youth unemployment requires action. The first meeting of ACEVO's Commission on Youth Unemployment, chaired by David Miliband met yesterday. A great first meeting and the talent of the commissioners drawn together was evident. This will be an important report and a major contribution to a debate that is sorely needed.

Tuesday 13 September 2011

Going Dutch with Stuart!

An interesting lunch! Stuart and I were invited to the Dutch Ambassador's residence for lunch with the Dutch Interior minister. He wanted to talk " big society" so we also had the great Philip Blond who held forth on the subject, amongst other things. Elegant surroundings and elegant meal but purposeful discussion. There is much interest around Europe in this idea of Cameron, but like the rest of us they are not quite sure what it means.

The " right to challenge" in health was one of the more radical ideas emerging from the Future Forum. The DH are working on the concept and how to translate into legislation- the idea would be to put amendments into the Bill in the Lords. So we had a working session between DH officials and a group of members to discuss how to do this. A really interesting session. There are a range of practicalities to be sorted to put this into law, and some issues of principle as well. Who is covered ? Do you exclude areas like A+E?

I think we ended up with some useful consensus- this new right will not just serve as a way in which communities and patients can challenge poor standards in a practical way but encourage new models of delivery and innovation.

As always, my members were on good form: practical! Raising issues in a constructive way that helped DH. And I was impressed at the calibre of the DH team too. I hope we can work out a good way to implement this new " Right"that gets parties on side and lets the new GP groups see it as a positive help, not a bureaucratic hindrance.

And to cap off the day I go to RNIB for my regular supervision session with my Chair , Lesley-Anne Alexander. The CEO-Chair relationship is cruciual to running a successful organisation. Just the right amount of challenge , backed by just the right amount of praise and always based on the proper division of the exec and non exec roles. I am lucky to have a Chair who embodies good practice. Long may she reign.

Monday 12 September 2011

Auschwitz - Birkenau

Just an hour from Krakov lies the largest of the Nazi concentration camps. Over 1.5million people , mainly jews, perished here.

The master of mercy will care for them under the protection of his wings for all time, and bind their souls in the bond of everlasting life.

God is their inheritance and they will rest in peace.

From The Kaddish.

Thursday 8 September 2011

Active Europe!

I have donned my Social Investment Business Chair's hat and made the opening speech at the " Active Europe" conference organised in Krakov by the European Federation of Ethical and Alternative Banks.

But the main purpose of this 2 day conference is consulting on the submission that is to be made to Commissioner Barnier in response to the call for ideas on social innovation and social enterprise. Euclid and SIB have been leading this work but FEBEA are crucial in getting wider buy in. The consultation ends on the 14th and the proposed actions will be announced in Brussels on November 18.

It is a mark of how cut off we are in the UK that this important initiative has been almost completely overlooked. It is only SIB and Euclid that have taken up the baton and are ensuring a radical response.

And yet the UK leads the field in innovative ideas for capitalising the third sector-there is huge interest in what we are doing and so John Low of CAF and Nick O'Donuhue Of BSC are here as well.

Our idea- which I outlined in the opening plenary- is for a european wide " social investment bank" modelled on the UK idea of Big society Capital ( BSC ). This might be an institution , but preferably a fund which operates a bit like BSC and is a wholesaler- giving loan funds to partner organisations across the EU.

I was sitting next to the EU Commission representative at the opening and so asked him what the total EU budget was. He said EU 867 billion so I suggested just 1% of that as the starter fund, so 8.7bn. This would then be supplemented by the mainstream banks around the EU in the same way as with BSC.

There will be more news on this at the euclid AGM in naples shortly when we will also be announcing the results of the EU social innovation competition which the Commission is sponsoring.

I made 2 points in my opening address. The EU faces 2 crises- the obvious economic and financial one , but that is couple with a crisis of confidence in the institutions of the state. There is a growing alienation of citizens and communities from governments and state bodies.

So the response to both these problems to return power to communities and the social economy-third sector. That is the way to drive more responsive public services and empower communities.

Getting to Krakov is not as easy as you might think. There is only an easyjet flight direct. This leaves at 6am so I refused to contenance getting up that early. So I had the bright idea of flying to Warsaw and getting the train. Supposedly it takes 2.5 hours. But in fact it took 5.5. And my image of flying through the Polish countryside whilst taking a leisurely dinner in dining car were crushed when I discovered train had no food of any description- though a man appeared half way through the journey with a large rucksack full of cans of beer! Well, needs must. Still I guess I saved the airmiles?!

At least I had a few hours to look round Warsaw; a rather more attractive City than its reputation would have you believe. It was almost totally destroyed by the Nazis but has been painstakingly restored.

I went to see chopin's heart and the birthplace of Marie Curie.

A reminder of the scale of the German Nazi atrocities was brought home when I went into the Dominican Church near Marie Curie's. During the Warsaw Uprising the church was used as a hospital. When the Germans marched in they shot the entire nursing and doctor staff, then they blew up the Church , thus burying all the patients who were in beds in the crypt. It was impossible to disinter all the bodies after the war so the marble Church floor now marks the grave of those hundred poor souls.

Krakov itself is a marvellous city- now well known as the birthplace of John Paul and where he spent his years as Cardinal Archbishop.

Tuesday 6 September 2011

Attacking charity

Appalled to hear Nadine Dorries MP on the Today programme making an entirely erroneous and indeed libellous accusation against a charity providing abortion services. I'm glad the Today programme published a correction. She claimed,without bothering to check and without foundation, that the British Pregnancy Advisory Service only provides one hour counselling a week to people who come for an abortion. Untrue and a disgrace that she made that claim.

She should be ashamed of herself. A thoroughly reprehensible attack. I heartily recommend the recent Blog of the admirable Fab Elsworth on this subject.

It's time Frank Field disassociated himself from Dorries.

Have they no shame?

Bankers that is! It has been revealed that the bosses of the banks that we, as taxpayers, bailed out now earn more than they did before the crisis. Amazing! And what an example they set. Is there no price for failure if you are a banker? Bonuses are supposedly there to reward achievement, effort and work that increases the business. Clearly not for bankers.

Oh well, I must remember that the British Bankers Association warns us they will all throw their toys out of the pram and decamp to Liechenstien if we dare to stop their bonuses.

An interesting Monday! The top teams at ncvo and ACEVO had a get together to talk about how we work more together and we had a view around our new home. I have to hand it to Stuart. The work going on at ncvo is amazing. It will turn these offices into a really terrific location- a hub for us and other sector bodies. I hope other umbrella bodies will consider moving into the new spaces being created.

Of course we really need to have a name for this new " hub " for the sector. I'm keen on Third Sector House ( we could ask the PM to open it as he is so keen on the term ) or perhaps the Bubb-Etherington Memorial home? Your suggestions warmly welcomed !

My top directors and I had a viewing of our new home on the second floor. It will be fitted out to our spec so I have marked out my office spot. I generously offered to forgo an office and go Open Plan but Dr Kyle quickly put a stop on that!

Friday 2 September 2011

The BMA!

So the BMA are launching a " kill the bill " campaign. They have reversed their position in welcoming the work of the Future Forum and the changes that were proposed, retreated back into their comfort zone and now want to kill all chances of reforming the service for the benefit of patients.

I think the time someone spoke some home truths about this union. Let's be clear on the role of the BMA. This is not an organisation that puts patients' interests first, or wants to defend the NHS. It is the doctors' trade union and has always put what is good for the doctor before anything else. No reason why a trade union should not do this. It's their job. And they have been most effective in doing it. But do not allow them to get away with the deception they are defending the NHS or have the citizens' interests at heart, because in this case they most certainly do not.

For too long politicians have indulged the BMA. The attitude is , as Nye Bevan put it in his mammoth struggle with the BMA when he was setting up the NHS , we "stuff their mouth with gold". One of the major failings of New Labour was to cave in to the BMA on doctors contracts. So we now have a situation where a very large number of doctors are paid more than the PM.

And I would not object to good salaries for highly professional and dedicated staff, but what I do object to is the lack of customer focus. Why don't more doctors surgeries open at the weekends or late evenings so those of us who work can see them without having to take a day off work? Some already do, but it should be the norm not the exception. And why is it often so difficult to get an appointment, so you are left with the impression you are being granted a favour rather than your right? And we all know of doctors surgeries that won't register " difficult" customers like the homeless or travellers or the profoundly mentally ill, all because they are too much trouble! Perhaps Hamish Meldrum, the Chair of the BMA, who writes in the Guardian today about his concern for poorer people loosing out in reforms, could turn his attention to those of his members who take such attitudes.

There are many wonderful doctors in our NHS. It is rightly why we all hold them in such high regard and trust them. I have met many of them over this last year. There are many progressive doctors who want to work with the third sector, who know reform is needed and are keen to take control of commissioning to make change happen.
But they are let down by some dinosaurs in the BMA who put sectional and vested interest before what is good for the NHS and the citizens who own it .

Yes, that’s right - citizens own the NHS and its citizens that doctors serve! And I have to say that the article in the Guardian with the BMA of all organisations posing as defenders of the poor is laughable.I was amazed by Meldrum's comments when he said we should oppose extending choice because " articulate middle class patients" will be able to take advantage and the less well off will not. What an idiotic argument. Of course less well off citizens find it harder to exercise their rights. That's true in education , welfare etc. But the answer to that is not to stop extending choice but to ensure we put resources into advocacy and support to people to exercise choice . Its a spurious argument, which masks their opposition to giving us all more choice over our health service. It is also deeply patronising to poorer communities ; assuming if you are poor you don't have the ability to exercise choice. The NHS Constitution ( which i thought the BMA supported) guarantees choice to citizens. Are the BMA now arguing these rights be removed from us?

So let's be clear when we hear their "kill the bill" demands. This is not because they are supporting the NHS; remember this organisation opposed the setting up of the NHS back in 1947. They have regressive and patronising views on the role of the third sector . They oppose competition and a greater diversity of providers , because they think it effects their dominance of the health sector.

There is a deep irony in their calls to stop "privatisation " and more competition. What is the biggest private sector involvement in the NHS? Doctors! Doctors are not public servants. They are independent private contractors. Indeed as I pointed out in my report for the government on choice and competition the role of independent private sector firms in the NHS is quite small, overall, less than 4%. Much less than doctors. So let's not allow the BMA to masquerade as defending the NHS in their new campaign .

We have been through a major review of the Bill in the Future Forum work. The Government have accepted significant change in their proposals. It would be appalling if yet further concessions were made to the vested interests of the BMA.
So my message to Lansley, Cameron and Clegg. Stand firm. Time to face down the BMA . It is no time for wimpishness. Governments have been too accommodating to the BMA in the past. Of course let's listen to their concerns. That is what the FF did. And reflected those concerns in the changes we proposed and the Government accepted. But it must be a NO to their demand to kill the Bill. It's time to show who runs the NHS and who it exists to serve.
As I said when my colleagues and I presented our FF reports to the Cabinet; the NHS belongs to the people; not the BMA.

The real defenders of the NHS are those who know reform is essential in the light of financial pressures, rising demand and the need to reallocate resources from hospitals to the community. Competition will drive more choice and move resources where they are needed. As I have said before " competition is not a disease". Don't let us allow the BMA to undermine reform, because that will, in the long run threaten the very basis of a service free and universal.

Thursday 1 September 2011

Bankers a'looting , Private Eye and Corfu!

I think that the banks use a different dictionary from the rest of us. One that has excised words like sorry,regret, repentance, remorse and the like. Clearly though it goes big on greed and arrogance.

I got off the plane yesterday and picked up the morning papers ; full of the sound and fury of the banks determined to carry on regardless and trying hard to ensure one part of the coalition government don't implement what we all know is much needed reform. I'm so pleased that Vince Cable MP is determined not to let the banks rob us again.

I was delighted to hear Evan Davies giving John Cridland a hard time as the " banks spokesman" as he was described, on Today. As he so rightly said to Cridland no one in the banks has ever said sorry or expressed any remorse , or even a thanks to the British people for bailing them out. It's clear they think we owe them, not the other way round. And their quick return to bunging themselves large bonuses show that like the bourbons they have learnt nothing and "regret rien".

And as for the childish response of the British Bankers Association who are loudly telling us , like a petulant child in the playground ; " well if your nasty to us , we'll take our ball away and play elsewhere, then you'll be sorry! ". The correct response to such childishness is , " well bugger off then".

There was also an interesting report in the Indi that said that there is evidence that the behaviour of politicians etc at the top of society does influence attitudes across society. The bankers should remember that their arrogance and greed set an atrocious example to young people. Whilst I'm not suggesting bankers get involved in violence, their looting of taxpayers money together with a refusal to allow sensible reform is as bad an example as the young people correctly arrested and punished for their actions in the recent riots.

Though there is a difference. The bankers have got away with it , no punishment. No repentance. They refuse to acknowledge guilt or allow sensible reform. We must hope the Government stand firm and implement needed reform.

That was not all that greeted me off the plane! Amusingly I get a text from Harriet Baldwin MP ( my vice Chair on SIB ) to tell me, " You have achieved life's highest honour - almost a page in Private Eye! All looks good to me. "

As you can imagine , the Office went in search of copy. Its rather fun. A collection of some of the pearls from my Blogs. I'm described as ,like Woody Allen's Zelig, Sir Stephen Bubb keeps popping up in important places.....he's a chatty little chap...a world champion bore on the third sector....almost a permanent fixture in parts of Whitehall ".

It's a piss take of course, but featuring in Quentin Letts and Private Eye is an achievement of sorts!

Although the jet lag is taking its toll I go off to the Proms with my old friend Alec McGivan from the BBC and David Fielding to hear the world premier of a new Cello Symphony by Graham Fitkin.

It's good. In parts. Perhaps could do with some editing. Of course I'm aware that history may prove this work to be hugely significant , in which case my Blog will condemn me! Yo-Yo Ma on his £2.2m cello was stunning , of course. But the highlight was the Beethoven 9th. Massive choir. Full Orchestra. The magnificent noise!

Back home to my niece Miranda who was baby sitting the Hound. She tells me she was sitting at the next table to a bunch of dining Tories whilst on holiday in Corfu. Oliver Letwin and an Alan Duncan, " looking ridiculous in a djellabas.

I said did she go and introduce herself as my niece but no, she was uncharacteristically shy. And to cap it all she wasn't listening in to the conversation. Shame!