Tuesday 31 January 2012

To be or not to be...

On holiday , that is ? I am away for a week's break in Cyprus. The hound is holidaying in Bromley with sister Sara. The question is do I turn off the blackberry? Ignore all emails? Not take calls? It is a question many CEOs ask when they go away. Of course I'm sure ACEVO will manage most effectively without me , but I'm addicted to my blackberry. Love looking at my emails. Doing my blog ( as I am now sitting on a balcony looking at the Mediterranean ). And armed with my iPad I can even listen to the Today programme and catch on the Archers. Sad but true.

And my ever energetic Director Filippo Adarrii has even contacted 3 civil society leaders here to meet me. But I'm not complaining. It will be interesting to meet them and here about the state of the sector in the island. One of them is planning a major conference on social enterprise and wants our support , which they will get.

But that's enough. I'm off on the bus into Larnaca. There is a famous church here, St Lazarus. The chap who was raised from the dead by Christ and apparently made his way here and became a Bishop !

Look forward to photos in tomorrow's blog.

Monday 30 January 2012

Lansley is right!

Andrew Lansley has hit the spot when he wants the NHS to provide a 7 day a week service and when he states the scandal of worse health care at weekends has to stop.

Our hospitals have state of the art technology that enable the detection and treatment of ill health. The scanning equipment and the theatre kit these days are a marvel to behold.

Recent evidence that deaths from heart failure have dropped dramatically demonstrate the major advances of medical science and the power of early detection through scans.

But developments in medical practise and behaviour still lag behind. Why is it that all these expensive pieces of medical kit lie idle at weekends? People are now waiting longer for tests and operations. So why not open up all of the hospitals on Saturdays and Sundays?

And why is it that still most doctors surgeries are not open in the evenings and weekends?

It is both a disgrace that people have to wait for treatment and an inefficiency not to maximise use of hospitals and doctors surgeries.

Many hospitals have now started to do routine work on Saturdays but not enough. So rather than leaving plant under utilised why not hire it out? Another sensible reform being considered by Lansley is to lift the arbitrary cap on hospitals private work. Rather than leaving expensive equipment underused a deal with, say Circle would bring in money for the NHS and they could be contracted to do work to clear waiting times so benefiting patients.

Or alternatively a new social enterprise set up by a group of nurses, consultants and doctors could take over the hospital at a weekend and run a full service with the profit going back into developing that hospital. It is a model crying out to be developed!

Recently I went for an eye check at John Radcliffe in Oxford. It was a Saturday so I did not need to take a day off work. But I was struck by how empty every where was. What a waste. I am also glad to say,needing to have some further tests , I discover they have a contract with the independent Nuffield hospital to undertake these so that I did not need to wait too long for that. As an NHS patient I was glad to get an early date; I wasn't worrying it was in a private hospital. What matters is what works, not who delivers it.

It is time we moved the debate on " privatisation" forward. We need a proper regulated system that maximises the value of the private and third sectors to the patients of the NHS. I regret that the position of many like Andy Burnham MP and those who support him put ideology above choice and the best interests of patients and citizens. It is a shame that the debate on the health bill cannot now move on to deciding how best to implement reform in the interests of the users of the NHS and explore how to best make use of the work of the other 3 sectors to advance medical care and the prevention of ill health.

Friday 27 January 2012

Board on Friday!

I know you will be sympathetic: a euclid board meeting on a Friday evening. Perhaps less so when I tell you it is in Venice!

The beauty of this city is indescribable though many have tried; and January is a great month to be here. Few tourists yet clear blue skies. Great deals on hotels! We meet in the European Centre for living technology on San marco Square and then Prof David Lane, attached to said,takes us to his favourite venetian restaurant for post board discussion . But my day started with Mass in the Basilica of San Marco- around the supposed but venerated body of said Saint and a visit to my favourite venetian chirch, Santa Maria del Miracoli, a masterpiece of the Italian renaissance. And lunch!

Pre board preparation you might say; and there are a few contentious issues to discuss. It is always fascinating to observe the cultural interplay between our board members- the approach of the swedes versus the french, the albanians versus the italian and so on. You realise how important it is to use language carefully for although our meetings are conducted in the world lingua franca ( english) it is easy to cause difficulty through misunderstandings over language.

Euclid has come far in a few years. Now well established with the European Commission we are seen as one of the key stakeholders on civil society finance and how to develop social finance and innovation. In particular my director Filippo Addarri is a familiar figure in the many and long corridors of power in Brussels. Better known than even the Secretary General; but then long Brussels corridors are not exactly my thing. Long may that continue! Now for culture...

Cuts and independence

The first systematic review of the real impact of public spending cuts on local authorities has been published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation . It finds that the most deprived local authorities have been hardest hit by the cuts. It also finds conflict within local authorities over whether the needs of vulnerable people should be prioritised.

Serving deprived communities in a recession looked at 25 local authorities and provides an early insight into how local government in England is coping with the severe contraction in grant income implemented after the 2010 Comprehensive Spending Review. Analysis of the patterns of spending cuts show greater cuts (in both proportionate and absolute terms) in the most deprived authorities, compared with the most affluent.

I think it is interesting , and alarming that this points to conflict over whether the needs of vulnerable people should be prioritised. Only half the sample had adopted 'protecting the needs of the most vulnerable client or communities' as a principle guiding budgetary decision-making and just two suggested that 'protecting deprived neighbourhoods' was a priority.

The report suggests that the consequences of the cuts for disadvantaged people in the poorest areas will also quite possibly be overlooked. Local authorities are struggling to assess the impact of the cuts they make to services, due to lack of capacity. The authors believe that the cuts made by local government in future should be monitored to ensure that the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable people are addressed.

This points to a continuing and growing role for our sector in highlighting the damage to the most marginalised and getting something done about it. I'm pleased to say that many are doing just that. For example the big national children's charities have been at the forefront of protests about potential damage to vulnerable children. And to those pundits who say that contracts have dulled independence I say look at the work of Barnados , Action for Children and the Children's Society. They have large contracts with the state. It does not stop them from speaking out. Indeed one could argue they have been more vocal than the NSPCC who derive most of their income from donations.

The problem with the debate on independence is that it is often conducted by armchair philosophers in an evidence free climate. I would argue , as does Victor Adebowale ,that involvement with service delivery has increased the efficacy of our campaigning because we know sharp end how contracts are working for our beneficiaries.

But whether it is local third sector bodies or national charities it is our role to speak truth to power. And we have the evidence from this report to do just that. ACEVO itself will not shy away from arguing for civil society and pointing to Emperor's no clothes; trenchant but I hope always with an alternative solution. Whinging without remedies is the preserve of the playground.

Thursday 26 January 2012

Annual Meeting highlights

Some AGMs are tedious. Some difficult. ACEVO is lucky. Our AGMs are excellent affairs. And rather fun. We had over 100 there, and that's not a bad record for chief execs turning up for such an event.

I gave a farewell to 2011 and my Chair welcomed 2012. We started off with a rousing speech from Nick Boles MP. He had been one of the Commissioners on the ACEVO Big Society Commission and he spoke about that and the vital role our sector plays in his constituency.

Sometimes AGMs can be opportunities for nit picking or whinging. Not so last night. I guess that's because we are all CEOs!  A good debate on issues like our potential role in challenging corporate greed , how we promote more service delivery by our sector but in ways that protect us in commissioning. And that great guy Jon Davies who leads the Wikipedia charity paid tribute to the ACEVO linked in group. This is a marvellous 900 strong group and Jon said how helpful colleagues had been in helping him in his new role at a new charity. So if you are an ACEVO member and not on this then join!

We also announced the results of our recent elections. 4 people elected to the ACEVO Board. They are;

Virginia Beardshaw – ICAN (current ACEVO Board member, re-elected for 2nd term) 
Cath Lee – Small Charities Coalition
Alison Agius – Catalyst Stockton
Paul Martin- Lesbian and Gay Foundation
Finally let me recall the quote I ended my speech with. I like a good quote. And it needs to be from a Leader. So Catherine the Great ;

" A great wind is blowing and that gives you either imagination or a headache ".

That's the leadership  challenge in difficult times!

Old and new. One of our founders Mike Whitlam with our newest member of just 3 weeks, Gary Forster, CEO of Transaid

Wednesday 25 January 2012

Gaudeamus Igitur : 25 years of sector leadership

Yes. Let's celebrate. 25 years of ACEVO, but more importantly 25 years of the voice for CEO leadership.

This month's issue of " Network" , our ACEVO leadership journal carries a fascinating article by Baroness Hayter who was one of the great 10 who founded acevo ( acenvo then) back in 1987. Read it here.

We have grown. Developed. Undoubtedly now a strong voice for sector Leaders to Government, to business and to our own sector. Now a national presence and a regular in the media promoting our sector leaders.

The core purpose remains as it was then; a network for CEOs to share and to provide mutual support and encouragement and to give collective voice for our sector's leaders.

And in austere times it's good to have a reason to celebrate. In February my chair and I start a series of meetings around the country to review and reflect.

Yesterday was a blockbuster day; starting off with breakfast with the Big Society Network and then onto the Riots Panel enquiry. I listened to a presentation by Gracia McGrath of ChanceUK. A brilliant charity run by a wonderful ACEVO member ( who I have forgiven for stealing one of my treasured staff! ). She talked about their experience of dealing with excluded kids and how damaging it is for kids to be removed from school and education - particularly if this is happening at primary level. She said it was noticeable that 30% of those arrested in the 10-17 age range had been excluded from school. And she pointed out the real lesson. Her programmes cost 4k a year to run but save the country millions.

And then onto chair the Boards of the Social Investment Business and the Adventure Capital Fund. I managed to do that in the alloted 2 hours we have given ourselves to conduct business. I'm a strong believer that meetings that drag over 2 hours lose impact and value. With discipline and firm chairing you can do what you need to do in that time and we always agree up front on what the strategic issues we need to discuss are and then spend proper time doing that, rather than extensive discussion on the minutes or signing bank mandates and the like.

There are those who seem to think there is a linear relationship between time and scrutiny- so a 4 hour meeting must be better than 2 hours. Clear nonsense. A 4 hour meeting has been badly chaired and is less effective because people get tired and irritable.

As chair you need to do 2 things well; ensure effective oversight of the executive ( though not doing their job) and ensuring strategic direction for the business. And last night , despite a packed agenda, we had a great discussion on the future funds and loan schemes we might develop. There was also a discussion on what are charmingly termed C4C ie "cause for concern". That means organisations heading for the buffers and so not paying us back. Crudely speaking. And that may not be their fault but wicked councils withdrawing contracts. The issue for us is how far do we bail out or extend loans. Whilst each case is different and we have an engaged investor approach we have to be rigorous in expecting organisations that take a loan to pay it back cos that's the system. We aint a grant maker! Loans not paid back mean another organisation denied a new loan.

And finally my younger sister Lucy and I are having fun organising our aged parents' Diamond Jubilee. As Mother was born in Union Hall , Ireland we are going over there and will have a gathering of the Limrick clan to celebrate. We are staying at The Castle, Castle Townshend, a beautiful spot in a charming village with many historic anglo- irish links. I'm corresponding with the Townshends and I reckon Anne Cochrane- Townshend , current chatelaine of the Castle is something like my 7th cousin ( the anglo- irish are all related in some way!) My Somerville Great Grandfather x 5 was the Vicar here and our gathering will no doubt be graced by the ghosts of ancestors past.

Much to celebrate. And later our AGM and annual reception in the Commons will reflect on the challenges for leaders that lie ahead...

Tuesday 24 January 2012

Reform our boardrooms

Hot on the heels of the various speeches by our political leaders on responsible capitalism, we now have Vince Cable's plans on top pay etc.

I have blogged before on the unacceptable face of boardroom pay as evidenced by the  arrogance of top bankers. But if they are to get big bonuses again , then let them donate those to charity. And make that public. As Clare Tickell said to Stephen Hester of RBS it is a big shame that top earners in the UK do not have a culture of major giving and publicising this as they do in the US.

But more importantly, as Vince Cable says , we need a "change of culture " in our boardrooms.

And one way to do this would be to make boards more diverse. As I argued when I was on the Tyson review of corporate governance back in  2000 having more third sector leaders on our Boards would inject a strong voice for an ethical and sustainable business approach.  And as our leaders are themselves more diverse in gender and race terms this would also help address the heavy pre dominance of older rich white males on boards.

So I would encourage Vince to look at a much stronger push towards diverse boards. He is proposing 2 people on boards who have not been on boards before. This in itself will achieve little unless he says more in terms of other sectors and diverse backgrounds.

It's what Tyson argued but frankly her report had bugger all effect as companies sailed on regardless.

I wrote a rather splendid pamphlet on this whole issue back in 2004 " And why not" is still topical. And correct.

As the boundaries between our sectors get more flexible and blurred and the third sector works more closely with commerce then the case for board reform gets stronger.

But let's also be clear our own governance arrangements are not always transparent or accountable. I know from the stories of my own CEOs that trustee boards can be of variable quality. And not always diverse! However I suspect there are significantly more businessmen on our boards than vice versa!

Monday 23 January 2012

Reclaim the parks

A weekend in London so a tour of the South London parks with the Hound. Brockwell Park, Dulwich and Ruskin. But somehow they all exude an air of municipalism. Can we not do better? The worst was definitely ruskin where whole sections are fenced off with nasty signs saying " no dogs". The Hound rightly ignored such fascist instructions.

The shame! The missing Hepworth sculpture in Dulwich Park. Give it back

Here is a prime case for the third sector to take over. I have already told Steve Reed, Leader of Lambeth Council , if he really believes in a cooperative council give me Brockwell Park.

As I told him I already actually own it. A little known fact but Brockwell Park was purchased out of the Charitable funds that resulted from the Charity Commission reorganisation of the endowments of the City of London Parishes. In those days we had a robust Commission that believed in radical steps to reform and reorganise charities when it was obvious they were not fit for purpose ( why they were even known to close down public schools when they broke their charters by educating rich kids when their founders said they had to educate the poor! ).

And in those days they even made visitations to charities on horseback. I'm sure Suzi and Sam would look great in jodphurs!

But back to the point. I think a partnership between a number of local and national charities and social enterprises ( like BTCV- Tom is up for it ) could revitalise Brockwell. So Steve ; bring it on.

The work programme has come in for some adverse publicity in recent weeks. I have my criticisms, which I won't shy from making. But we also need to be constructive about making it work and arguing to change it for the better . So ACEVO is working with ERSA and NCVO to develop a good practice guide on supply chain relationships within the welfare to work arena. We are looking for case studies of good practice, so click here (http://www.acevo.org.uk/document.doc?id=1917) to find out more details about the guide, express your interest and submit case studies.

And now I'm off to DWP to talk about this. A good day to do that with the Bishops lining up in the Lords today. The Children's Society have produced some compelling evidence on the potential effect of change on child poverty. They should be listened to. I know IDS cares about such things and he will listen and , I believe, changes will be made.

Friday 20 January 2012

Intimations of mortality

3 times this week. Yes, that's the number of times I was offered a seat on the bus and tube; once by a lady in her 20s. Surely I'm not looking that old! And I certainly don't feel it....

Still, I was in the right place last night if there were any problems. Guys Hospital; for a reception of the Guys and Tommies charity. Its the largest of the hospital charities in the UK. And saved from the grab of the state in 1947 by the Charity Commission , showing unusual determination they said Bevan could not nationalise the hospital endowments because they had been given for public benefit , not state aggrandisment.

I like to think of Guys as mine; because it is my local hospital and I have used it, and because I was a non exec for the 2 hospitals and because for over 500 years it was a charity hospital !

Paul Corrigan , that health radical , was speaking. The charity does huge good in supporting research and in making grants and loans locally. Yes, they do loans, so showing foundations can be radical!

Paul Corrigan

Up late this morning so heard Paul Johnston on desert island discs. He used to be a radical editor of the New Statesman. Now in his eighties he is a pompous old buffer defending dictators. He likes Pinochet and Nixon. Does not like Mandela. Apparently Nixon was good because he was always wanting to learn. So Paul, that's alright then, subvert democracy and lie but if your learning that's OK then. Humph. I know it might be said my views have mellowed over the decades but if I ever get that bad I must be taken out and shot. And that is not a hint Robin.

Age does not excuse ignorance. It should encourage wisdom. And I'm now off to dispense some to my staff!

Thursday 19 January 2012

Responsible Capitalism

Trek to the Westminster Hub- a rather cool centre for budding social entrepreneurs and charities - to hear the PM talk about responsible capitalism. An interesting speech. I always like it when politicians ground their thinking and policy in historic roots so enjoyed his link with the reforming zeel of Peel and Disraeli ( corn law and factory acts ).

He was roundly quizzed on bonuses, a topic on which we will all be hearing so much more over the next weeks !

It was good that when it came to time for questions I didn't need to introduce myself because the PM did that for me. I suggested that whilst corporate social responsibility was good it could often be patronising; kindly business leaders telling us charity and social enterprise folk how best to run our organisations. In fact they could do with the wisdom and experience of third sector leaders in running ethical business and in motivaitng staff.

So I made 2 suggestions to him.

#1. tell business to put more third sector leaders on their boards

#2. let the bankers take their bonuses but tell them to donate them to charity or invest them in social enterprise.

Whilst the PM replied by saying they were most interesting proposals as he expected from me I didn't get specific agreement. He did however absolutely agree that CSR must be more root and branch and that indeed business can learn from us.

It was a shame he didn't take up the idea of encouraging bankers to donate. He was challenged on that by the FT. I hope we can make a strong case over the next few weeks to encourage those about to take hefty bonuses to give to charity. And to tell us they have.giving by rich people in this country is lamentable. They could set an example.

So I am looking to Stephen Hester in particular. If you do get a bonus at the level the press are suggesting; how fantastic if you said you would give it to charity or loan it the social investment business so we can loan it to great new third sector enterprises.

The truth, the whole truth and nothing but....

It's the Commons Select Committee meeting on the health lottery today. The Gambling Commission will have to justify their decision to give licences to a national health lottery set up as 51 separate companies under a law that is supposed to prevent competition to the national lottery but allow local ones- like the many great hospice lotteries that we all support.

And ahead of this , the health lottery people had an interesting press conference yesterday. In the Savoy- that well known haunt of healthy living.

Their briefing paper was all sadly rather incoherent and rambling. In particular it rather took issue with me. I'm " out of touch with reality" apparently.

Jeremy Muller is one of the directors of the 51 CICs that manage the lottery. He says that I have " never been in business" and built my career through the unions.

Yes Jeremy. Guilty. It's true I ve never worked in the private sector.

But what an odd accusation. Are you really suggesting that only people who have worked in " business", by which you mean the private sector, are in touch with reality? So you must think all those health charities you want to support don't know anything about business too? I know from my health sector members that they very much have a business like approach to their organisation. And as many of my health CEO members have, like me, never worked in the private sector he must think they are out of touch too !

I think it is always a mark of desperation when an opponent thinks they have to attack you personally. And frankly when you look at the other allegations he makes you understand the desperation.

As he did on the Today programme he produces clearly inaccurate figures to justify only giving 20p in contrast to the national Lottery 28p.

In the year to 31 March 2011, The National Lottery returned £1,665.1 million to National Lottery Good Causes. With total sales for the 2010/11 financial year of £5,822.4 million, this works out at 28.59 pence in the pound - not 27 pence as Mr Muller incorrectly claims.

He also said that the national lottery only gave 10p to charities. Wrong again. He just does not know the sector. Much of the money for arts, sport and heritage also goes to charities. Brilliant schemes run by ACEVO members that use music to support better mental health or sport among young people that encourage community cohesion and tackling obesity . And heritage too- only this morning the Dickens Trust were on talking about their plans for the bicentenary of Charles Dickens' birth. They too are a charity and have been supported by funds from the national lottery.

The idea behind the good cause allocation by the national lottery is that it will support all the causes that the British people give money to. An entirely noble idea. I object to being told there is a hierarchy of giving or charities. Snide comments about opera or the Olympics should not obscure the simple fact that the health lottery gives only 20p not 28p away. And it has been set up to compete with the national lottery, so if it draws people away from the national lottwery our sector overall will suffer.

And let's face it , anyone who has seen their advertising knows they are competing head on. A big full page advert in the Star recently ( guess the proprietor of that paper! ) said " 7 times more likely to win our top prize".

Today the Gambling Commission will have to justify their extraordinary decision to register the health lottery using legislation designed to promote local society lotteries like hospices.

Frankly gambling Commission folk; if it looks like a duck and quacks lie a duck then it probably is one. So why have you decided its a pigeon?

Something's not right here. And so I was not surprised when you refused my request to see the papers on your decision making process.

The task for the Select Committee is simple. Force the truth out about how the Gambling Commisison made this decision. And if it shows there is a loophole then the Government must urgently amend the legislation.

In the meantime Mr Muller and Mr Desmond: you can sort this argument by taking a cut in profit and giving 28p in the pound to our marvellous health charities.

Wednesday 18 January 2012

REVOLUTION ? What revolution?

The Government have been committed to a revolution in rehabilitation. Goodness knows it's needed. We know prison does not work. We know the majority of those in prison are back there in a year. In opposition we worked with the Tories in particular on the need for a radical new approach.

So ACEVO set up a taskforce to see where it is all going. Published today we are calling for urgent and radical reform of the criminal justice system.

With prison population figures at record levels, reoffending rates stubbornly high and the Ministry of Justice facing a 23% budget cut, our members argue that as an economy and as a society, we simply cannot afford to continue with the self-defeating status quo.

ACEVO’s Reducing Reoffending taskforce is therefore urging Government to re-energise their commitment for a genuine Rehabilitation Revolution and work with the third sector to make sure it does not fall off track.

Back on Track, the Taskforce’s final report, launched today, encourages Government to be progressive and bold in their vision for reform. This means facing up to resistance from those committed to the “throw away the key” approach, and close a number of prisons in order to free up significant resource to invest in rehabilitating offenders far more effectively.

The report makes a series of practical recommendations to Government to help implement the Rehabilitation Revolution and succeed where previous administrations have not in tackling the engrained problem of reoffending.

The report urges Government to work with the third sector more. The full report can be seen here
It was chaired by the admirable Rob Owen- profiled only yesterday in my Blog.

So Ken. Take on the vested interests. Stand up to the entrenched voices in probation ( incidentally it used to be run by us- time for it to return! ). We know you want to do this.

Members, anniversaries and the BBC

How great to hear that the St Giles Trust is to have Prince William as its patron. The CEO is the dynamic reformed capitalist Rob Owen who has been an active member of ACEVO for years. He is a real pace setter for our sector; his work on impact assessment is a classic. More on the the taksforce Rob has been leading for us later today.

And they celebrate their 50 th anniversary. I'm into anniversaries this year as ACEVO celebrates 25! Mondy night Michael Burton was celebrating 25 years at the Municipal Journal. He reminded us this was the year ( 1987) of Duran Duran and Bon Jovi....now there's an idea for the ACEVO reception. After all, we have done the Beatles!

Lunch with Tom Flood at the British Museum. Here is Tom looking none of his 65 years! Rather trimmer than me I thought grumpily. What's he on I wonder?

Tom is stepping down from BTCV as CEO in July. He has worked there for 25 years. And they have also got their 50 th anniversary this year. They have a new Chair, Rita Clifton who is as charming and effective a Chair as one could hope for. An expert on branding, she, Tom and I are meeting to look at our very own ACEVO brand soon. A breakfast brainstorm.

Tom is another of our sector's trend setters. On our ACEVO Board , he will carry on supporting us by chairing ACEVO solutions, our very own social enterprise. Lunch was splendid. The BM has a great restaurant and eating there means you are supporting the third sector. And we did do some splendid gossip. Were your ears burning?

I had to scurry off to get to a Commons meeting with Chris Williamson MP one of Labours' shadow DCLG team. Wanted to know my take on local government : I said outsource more to the sector- that's the progressive agenda! Then a dash to the BBC for a pre record for " You and Yours" for Thursday on the subject du jour the health lottery.

Can the BBC cope with much more of Bubb? On Today on Wednesday. On the Big Society documentary on R4 on Sunday ( worth listening too incidentally; its a 3 parter with the last on this Sunday at 1.30pm) and now You and Yours. Can you ever have enough of a good thing!? Bit like a fine wine. Bring it on, as Ed Miliband is fond of saying.

And incidentally, it would be immodest to report on the comment of one Cabinet Minister I bumped into on Monday who said I had been " truly magnificent" on " Today". Yes, I know it's naughty to trumpet this but in difficult times we need a strong voice for the sector and if I , and others, can do what we can to put our case across effectively then I'm happy I'm doing my job.

Monday 16 January 2012


A great day in Surrey; although in fact it wasn't as it was the London Borough of Kingston! I was speaking to the senior managers and directors and members of Surrey County Council at one of their lunchtime leadership sessions. And the HQ of Surrey CC is in Kingston. Once, of course a while back that was indeed in Surrey. Indeed my own dear Borough of Lambeth was in Surrey ( hence Surrey county cricket is at the Oval! ) some 100 years ago.

I was talking to a senior group of directors, to managers and members about how the third sector can deliver more services and how partnership working has to be the way forward. A very positive and constructive response. They are interested in taking the debate forward and were particularly keen to talk about the potential for loans to the sector.

Inevitably they raised the need for the sector to get its act together. How we don't cooperate or coordinate and how we sometimes assume we are good simply because we are the voluntary sector.

I had to agree. We sometimes lose good friends and allies locally by bad behaviour. It's why I abhor the sillyness around small v large national v local. It does not help our case in promoting the sector and the work we do with our beneficiaries. And it is no good pretending all we do is always brilliant and that funding streams must continue for ever without change.

We can do so much more with a professional approach and I intend to follow up this lead in Surrey and see ACEVO and the SIB can join forces and promote a greater partnership working.

And then to cap off my local council day it was off to the Lords ( if I spend more time there they will think I am one, Robin !!! )For a reception to mark 25 years of Michael Burton's editorship of " Municipal journal" the lead in house mag for local councils. Blog readers may not have spotted this but I write a weekly column in that journal on their third sector page. Always worth a read I suggest. And it's worth marking anyone's 25 years in a job....I have a lot of catching up to do. And 25 years is such a short space of time to really get a grip on a job.

Thursday 12 January 2012

Working with councils; let good work prevail!

I've been writing to local council CEOs, along with my colleagues in ncvo and navca, to remind them about the role of the sector and decisions they will make on the 2012-13 budgets. We all know it will be tighter than ever.

I have been getting some interesting responses. One, from Stockton on Tees ;their CEO Neil Schneider tells me they have established an annual investment fund- including a loan element, so that the local third sector can bid for capacity building and sustainability projects. There is also a community fund put into a single endowment to get a higher RoR on investment.

This is exactly the type of work we need to encourage. I was delighted to see the loan project. I talked to Sir Merrick Cockell on this and I wonder if we can encourage more local councils to do this. We are pursuing that and I see the CEO of Barnet council next week who is ahead of the field on these ideas.

Southend on sea said the budget for our sector was one of the few they had agreed they would protect, and in 2011-12 they had made a modest improvement the CEO tells me he has personally been meeting with the CEOs of the local TS organisations.

So not all is bleak on the council front! But just how all the others will react , we shall see! And for the less progressive folk let's rmember the example of Derby council and their folly in not treating ther sector properly.

Sixteen charities have had their grants from Derby City Council extended after challenging the local authority using new statutory guidance.

The extensions were made after Community Action Derby warned council representatives that they had not followed the Communities and Local Government department’s Best Value Statutory Guidance.

Let Councils remember this guidance, introduced in September , says local authorities should consult organisations when planning to decommission services. It was issued after my friend Eric Pickles, declared that councils should not make cuts to their voluntary sector funding that were proportionately larger than cuts to their own budgets.

So I'm naming and praising. And shaming. I'm looking for many more responses of the praise sort. You then get a Bubb badge of approval. And punishment will surely follow those who choose the wicked path.

The Archbishop of York - talking about the Children's Society new report last night

Earlier this week I splent a pleasant day in Oxford. Lunch at Hertford College with my nephew Alexander. Will Hutton is now the Principal there so obviously popped in for a chat. He is enjoying his new incarnation and was keen to tell me how different a style of leadership is required. He is not a Chief Executive but more of a " speaker" type, chairing meetings where the fellows decide in " collegiate" style. No top down orders. Suggestions and prompting.

But I suspect that many charity and social enterprise CEOs have to have a little of that style as well. And I have been known to be collegiate myself though I'm generally more impatient as a CEO and like things done to my desires! Prompting can take just so so long....

Will has been a great thinker and polemisist. He says he is not writing another book but may have a lengthy essay on the way forward as a nation . I suggested something on how Ed M might take a grip to lead! He demured.

But he readily accepted an invite to come and speak at an ACEVO learning with leaders lunch. That will be fun.


I'm not an early morning person! So it was a trial having to emerge at 6am to get to the "Today " programme. But as this is my favourite radio show ( along with The Archers! ) I was happy to do that and to take battle on behalf of charities who may face a loss of income from the competition of the health lottery against the national lottery.

Of course it is too early to say whether the competition is damaging national lottery sales but only recently there were big ads in the Desmond outlets with raging headlines saying" 7 times more likely to win our top prize". So he is clearly taking on the National Lottery and wanting people to switch. If they do , then only 20p goes to charities not the 28p from the National Lottery.

And this is not about arguing health charities should not get money. They face huge challenges and deserve more support. They need it , so if they get grants from the health lottery that is good. But it is not good if that has resulted in an overall drop in income to our sector.

The guy opposing me in the studio talked about what money they have given out in grants. This is good. But in 2010 alone the National Lottery gave £270m to health charities- dwarfing the amount Mr Desmond has promised at £50m.

And it was rather a cheap shot for my opponent from the health lottery CICs to say that in " my illustrious career" I had worked for the National Lottery. I haven't. I worked for the Charities Board which was the organisation giving the money away, not raising it. And proud I am of the work I did there. I ran the first grant round for health charities when we gave away £300m in our first year to health charities . A silly point and obviously I didn't rise to it!

I got a good crack of the whip on this and hope it went down well. Next Thursday the Commons Select Committee will look at this. ACEVO will give a briefing to them.
We are not happy with how ther Gambling Commission gave permission to an obvious rival to the National Lottery when Parliament clearly intended local lottery legislation not to allow for a rival to the National Lottery. And as a loophole has been exposed in the legislation the Government need to close it. Pronto.

The health lottery are holding a press conferencve next tuesday at the Savoy. Let's hope Mr Desmond uses that as an occasion to announce he will cut his profit margin and give more to health charities by at least matching the 28p of the national lottery. We shall be watching!

It was also good to bump into my old friend the Archbishop of York in the BBC studio. I shall see him later at a lecture with The Children's Society on their Good Childhood Report in Church House.

Support The Lords!

I am glad to say that the charity campaign against plans to means-test employment and support allowance (ESA) payments for disabled people after only a year were rejected by peers.

The means test would have applied to cancer patients and stroke survivors, and was denounced by Lord Patel, a crossbencher and former president of the Royal College of Obstetricians, ( they are acevo members) as an immoral attack on the sick, the vulnerable and the poor. "If we are going to rob the poor to pay the rich, then we enter into a different form of morality," Patel said.

The other defeats in the Lords were over plans to time-limit ESA for those undergoing cancer treatment, and to restrict access to ESA for young people with disabilities or illness.

I would urge the Government to rethink. There is no popular support for these particular changes. I really hope the Prime Minister and Ian Duncan Smith will review this and support the changes made by the Lords. It is the right thing to do.

Monday 9 January 2012

The Work Programme and Windsor Castle!

As I read in Kaye Wiggins' coverage in Third Sector yesterday:

Charities and other groups delivering the Work Programme have signed up to a contract that says they will "not do anything which may attract adverse publicity ".

The terms of the agreement also say prime contractors "shall not make any press announcements or publicise the contract in any way" without approval from DWP.

The adverse publicity clause has been passed to some charity subcontractors through a condition added by some primes that all terms in their own contracts with the DWP also apply to groups in their supply chains.

The contracts between the DWP and the prime contractors also contain a requirement that primes take steps to ensure their subcontractors do not make press announcements or publicise the contract without the department’s approval.

A spokeswoman said the department did not adopt a heavy-handed approach and had not censured charities that had publicly criticised the Work Programme.

Julian Blake, a partner at the law firm Bates Wells & Braithwaite, which specialises in private, public and third sector contracts, said: "Contracts often have a publicity clause, but they don’t always go as far as to say you should not say anything that will produce adverse publicity. This seems like it has gone a bit further, and it does cross the line about what the right balance should be in principle.

I'm pleased to say my ebullient Director of Policy was forthright about all this in his comments .

" Ralph Michell said it was not clear how many charities had been deterred by the clauses in the contract. He said, however, that they should be free to criticise the Work Programme publicly if they thought this was reasonable and in the best interests of their beneficiaries.

"The principle that charities should be able to bite the hand that feeds them is completely sacrosanct," he said. "Whatever is in the contract, charities have a moral duty to speak out on behalf of those they serve."

I'm blogging from Windsor Castle! It's ironic that I'm at consultation at St George's House on " Inequality: moral obligations and economics ". And amusing to report , my bedroom is just next to Brendan Barber of the TUC. How useful . I can give him some helpful late night advice on pensions!

Here is the view from my rather splendid room under the eaves in a room on the ramparts!

Friday 6 January 2012

Clearing out!

I don't know what it is about the New Year but I always have this desire to tidy up and throw stuff out. I have been having a major clear out in my somewhat untidy office. I tend to keep things for longer than I should so it's always a rather interesting time when I come across old papers or momentoes. Sometimes I can't bear to throw them out so I redistribute to grateful staff and suggest they will be educative!

My extensive collection of photos is expanding around the office. I have a great new crop from Perth CHOGM. And an African wooden Chiefs stick which is a symbol of authority and makes a good gavell for me to hammer on the table when my Directors start getting unruuly at our weekly DG meetings.

But it has also been diary planning. Over the next 3 months I have a major programme of meetings with my ACEVO members. I want to pick up on the challenges our Chief Executives are facing on the ground. It's a good way to celebrate our Silver Jubilee!

And in the New Year spirit here are 2 fun photos from my recent Bubb clan visit in Devon.

Thursday 5 January 2012

Doing Leadership!

A fascinating documentary on King George V on Tuesday. No one would claim George as a great intellect. He was a terrible father and more interested in shooting animals than reading books. He was however an incredibly good Monarch. Why?

His leadership style was based on a sound common sense approach and a gut instinct in handling difficult situations. These are , in fact, key leadership attributes. I've often been struck by how important a role instinct plays in making decisions as a CEO.

I can point to a number of occasions when the logic or advice I received pointed to a particular decision but I knew it wasn't quite right. Sometimes I bowed to the advice- only to find my instinct was right. Other times I plowed ahead on my instinct and found I was right. But sometimes wrong so it's not an infallible guide to success. But then the leadership job is made up of these types of challenge.

Now this is not to suggest you ignore all advice or press ahead regardless but it is to suggest you must be bold , not cautious and trust your own judgement.

Now I'm off to see Sir Merrick Cockell, the new Chair of the Local Government Association. Councils face huge challenges but its my job to tell him he should face them with us not by cutting us! Far too often councils think we are easy prey for cuts without thinking of the damage they can do to the more vulnerable and marginalised in our communities. I suspect ACEVO is going to have to be on the front foot defending our members against bad council decisions as we go through 2012. But ACEVO is never afraid to speak out when our Chief Executives are being threatened!

Wednesday 4 January 2012

A suitable subject for reform!

That's our health service. We all saw the reports from the Care Quality Commission about the appalling standards of care for old people in some hospitals. We now have a report from MENCAP which suggests that enduring "institutional discrimination" among doctors and nurses has contributed to the deaths of 74 vulnerable patients.

The 74 patients' deaths over the past decade were either caused or complicated by mistakes in hospitals and decisions by staff who failed to treat them properly and displayed ignorance or indifference to their plight, according to Mencap .

Inquiries by Mencap into the deaths raise searching questions for the NHS, which has been criticised in a series of recent reports for providing poor care, especially to older patients. The parliamentary and health service ombudsman, Ann Abraham, has already ruled that four of the cases highlighted were avoidable deaths and found serious failings in eight others. Inquest verdicts also confirm failings occurred in several cases.

Frankly, only with a radical redirection of resources from acute hospitals into the community can that change can happen. That means a radical programme of hospital closures. And a major investment in third sector delivery.

It is high time the NHS got serious about the sector. There is a lot of lip service paid to more delivery through the sector but the facts show that it is just lip service.

Do you know how much of the NHS commissioning budget is spent by PCTs on the third sector? It's 0.6 %. Yes. That's less than 1%.

When we know that care provided in the community or at home is what often works better and is what people need then this shows just how far the NHS is failing to deliver.

And finally. To cheer you all up on this first week back in the office here are the 2sector knights looking jolly at a recent sector reception.

And a thought from my local wine merchants, " Planet of the Grapes" at Holborn,

" January is the month for quality not quantity ".