Friday 27 July 2012

Gloom, Boards and Torches!

A depressing start to the day. A breakfast roundtable at ACEVO to review the economic consequeences for our sector and its CEOs and public attitudes to beneficaries during recession.

We had a fascinating ( if depressing) talk from the Institute of Fiscal Studies and the consequences of continuing public spending cuts. Treasury should now be plannig the next 3 year spening review but it is now clear they are unable to do so beyond the 2015 election so will simply roll over the last year of the current CSR and start when there is a new Government.

But the trends are clear and the fact we are now in a deep recession have not helped. So a pootential decade of cuts beckons.

What was clear was the consequences for the sector's work as half the entire budget is spent on health and welfare. It will be difficult to make cuts in health which therefore implies major cuts in welfare and elsewhere indeed on one projection its a cut of £44 billion over the period to 2018. And as much of that budget is pensions and allowances for older people there are issues about how far we protect older people and so cut harder for benefits to others , such as disability benefit ( already disgracefully attacked ).

There is also a significant problem for health , even if budget not cut because as medical science progresses nd the population ages demand rises. There will be heavy pressure for radical change to the way we spend on sickness not health and on hospitals not community and individuals. This is of course an opportunity for the sector.

We had agreement that there is no point whinging about cuts if we don't also offer solutions. So how we spend better and more effectively our reduced public spend. Have we been as good as we can in making the case for radical change in delivery of services? ACEVO has been leading this battle and we need to do more.

We also had a presentation from Ipsos Mori. The paradox from their polling is that people generally support the need to cut the deficit but are increasingly concerned at the effects on the most vulnerable.

One of the issues acevo members have raised with us is hardening public attitudes to " scroungers" yet Fiona Weir the CEO of Gingerbread pointed out that when you do more in depth work with people to set out the facts they rapidly see why cuts can be so damaging to social capital.

My Board meeting followed- it's that time of year when we examine our navel- our more particularly our finace and audit results. All fine I'm glad to say. Its always a challenging moment for a CEO when you get your audited accounts. No problems or issues. Good!

I spent the afternoon doing my bit of public duty- I was chairing an interview for a public appointment and as I was in Whitehall I thought I'd try and catch the Torch ( not literally obviously). Dr Kyle and I made our way to Eros to represent ACEVO in welcoming the Torch to Piccadilly Circus!

As a seasoned Londoner I knew how to manoeuvre myself into a prime spot and, as you can see, got a stunning photo of the Torch. No idea who was carrying it.

Thursday 26 July 2012

Health Lottery damned...

ACEVO has taken a strong and principled stand against the Health Lottery. That is because we believe it could compete against the National Lottery and so take money from charity overall. The Desmond Health Lottery only gives 20 p in the pound to good causes. The National Lottery gives 28 p.

So I was delighted today to read that a cross-party committee of MPs has called on the government to clarify the law around society lottery structures after it judged the Health Lottery to be “neither in the spirit nor the intention of Parliament”.

The Culture, Media and Sport Committee released a report " The Gambling Act 2005: A bet worth taking?, " and said that while it would not comment on the legality of the Health Lottery, given the current application for judicial review brought by Camelot against the Gambling Commission, it believes the lottery to “accord with neither the spirit nor the intention of Parliament as set out in the National Lottery Act 2006 and the Gambling Act 2005”.

The committee recommends that the government clarify the distinction between a national lottery and a collection of connected local lotteries.

“If the Government decides to allow more than one national lottery then it should ensure fair competition by requiring any new national lottery provider to pay lottery duty and meet the same legal requirements as the existing National Lottery operator,” the report said.

We will see what the Judicial review says soon. But then I expect DCMS to act. They have been wholly inadequate in their response so far , failing to uphold the intention of Parliament that there would only be one national lottery. Out charity sector cannot afford to lose money at a time of severe restraint and rising demand. But there is still time for Mr Desmond to do the right thing and raise the amount he gives to good causes to 28 p.

And on the home front I'm told by my team that our twitter feed now reaches 6000 people. Are you on it? It's lively and informative and often amusing. A must for allsector leaders surely! See it here

Tuesday 24 July 2012

A brightened mood!

The sun certainly lifts the spirits, if not exactly inducive to pleasant London travel!

Charlbury was bliss at the weekend and here are some delicious photos to prove it!

The imminent Olympics are certainly making their presence felt in London but its worth making the link between the wellbeing index launched today and non monetary benefits and impact. It's worth having a look at the measuring National Wellbeing programme. It didn't get much publicity but the dear Guardian have reported it well.

And whilst on wellbeing if you like Blogs ( and who doesn't) my Policy Director Ralph Michel is now blogging for third sector. Worth reading his first one Although he doesn't have a dog , live in Charlbury or is as amusing as his Boss , still worth reading for its erudition !

Monday 23 July 2012

Paying trustees; diversity or one size fits all?

The ink was hardly dry on the Hodgson report before a number of umbrella bodies were writing to Hurd to demand he rejects the recommendation to allow charities over 1m to pay their trustees. In a sector that values diversity, is it not strange to adopt a position that tells individual charities what they can and cannot do? Clearly there are many charities who do not want to pay their trustees. The majority. And no one should force them to do so. But why should those charities that do want to pay trustees be told they can't ? We are asking our ACEVO members whether they would want to take up such a freedom - the survey is still open  but it is clear that there is a real diversity of views.

There has always been a significant minority who would like to pay trustees. They do so for various reasons. Some believe that they cannot recruit enough diversity ; younger people or women and ethnic minorities so pay will help attract them. Others want to recruit top class commercial and financial skills and have found this problematic. Some of my members report general difficulties in recruitment and retention.

Some make another argument for a form of payment: one can then make clear there is a contract which requires something in return ; training , attendance at meetings , reading papers and putting time into the task. We get some superb trustees who make a tremendous contribution. We also have trustees who do not. This was one of the reasons the public sector went for remuneration. So now it is clear for non execs what is expected in return , including regular performance appraisal.

Hodgson came to an entirely sensible conclusion - not pro payment, nor anti payment - but rather that it should be up to individual charities what they do rather than the regulator. To demand charities not be allowed to exercise their own judgment strikes me as contrary to the very notion of a diverse sector where we value and applaud different approaches.

It is interesting to note that over the last decade all public sector bodies have moved to paying their non execs. And the record on diversity on public bodies has improved dramatically. The record is significantly better than our own.
And there is an interesting historical parallel ; the payment of MPs. Believe it or not there was a fierce debate in Victorian times around the idea that you should pay MPs. It was held to be a public service and people should put themselves forward for selfless and public spirited reasons. Which was why the Commons was dominated by the rich and landed . Pay enabled working people to stand. Nowadays no one would argue against that!

For many of the larger and better known charities there is less of a problem in securing good trustees. But for a range of middle income charities, where much of the business is in contracts, getting good commercial skills is more of a problem and payment could help. Some charities may also take the view that it is only key trustee positions that need payment. Perhaps the Chair or a treasurer, rather than the entire board.

This is, of course, legal already - if you have weeks to spare and unlimited patience you may just be able to persuade the Charity Commission to allow pay. But it is a major hassle.

Of course many will put forward contrary arguments to those above. They are valid arguments, and the debate is healthy. But why not direct that debate at individual charities, rather than the regulator or government? Why not, as Hodgson suggested, let them be the ones who, having listened to the arguments for and against, make up their own minds?

As my Director of Policy Ralph Michell  pertinently puts it in his first blog post for Third Sector , “in each individual case, when a charity considers paying its trustees, who is best placed to make the judgement on whether it should – the charity whose money it is, or the Charity Commission?” Read his blog for Third Sector in full here.

Friday 20 July 2012

The weather....

Well perhaps there may be sun in Charlbury this weekend. So a long walk over to my favourite pub The Plough in Finstock beckons. The Hound is not a great rain lover!

My brother Nick is obsessed with the weather. Indeed his daily Blog called appropriately The Daily Retailer ( he is a retail analyst) has all you ever need to know about it. Recently he was suggesting this summer may be the worst on record since the disastrous summer of 1816 which was called “the year with no summer” .

But the year marked 3 great artistic accomplishments inspired by that grim summer. Some of the best-known art of the Romantic period came out of that summer; in Switzerland, Lord Byron rented a villa near Lake Geneva and among his guests was one Mary Shelley. The appalling weather kept the house party trapped indoors, where Byron suggested they each write a ghost story. Mary Shelley wrote “Frankenstein” and Byron himself composed his famous poem about the extinction of the sun, “Darkness”. And back in England, the spectacular sunsets painted by Turner at this time were, of course, the work of the airborne ash from the eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia in 1815. Well done to Alex B for naming all those three answers. In Germany, incidentally, the soaring cost of oats in 1816 led to a shortage of horse feed, and so, just before he gave up on the weather and emigrated to Brazil, one Karl Drais invented a replacement for the horse: the velocipede, the precursor to the bicycle. Thus we all have cause to be grateful to the abysmal summer of 1816 and it will be interesting to see what great artistic accomplishments are inspired by the grim summer of 2012...though hopefully not on the increasingly accident prone Olympics!

Thursday 19 July 2012

Ancient and Modern

In Bath. At a hospital founded in 1174 , then to one of the newest hospitals in the country. Both in gorgeous buildings; one the John Wood Palladian prototype for what became Georgian Bath , the other a Norman Forster. One run by a charity for over 800 years, the other by the independent  company " Circle Healthcare" which is 50% owned by doctors and nurses. 

2 hospitals but both demonstrating the value of a diversity of providers in our health and social care system. 

To St John's Hospital first; to see Jonathan O'Shea, the CEO and ACEVO member. A guided tour of the lovely Georgian buildings cheek and jowl by  the roman baths and Abbey and then a meeting of ACEVO members from around Wales and the SW. 

I like to make the point to health service professionals that we used to run the health service. St Johns is a great example of that care , but also the continuity of our great sector over the millennia.  Established as a refuge for the poor and needy of Bath it now provides health and social care, accommodation and support, and grant making for the elderly.  

And the diversity of the sector was illustrated by the fact that for 2 of my members at the lunch their biggest problem is the movement of the property market. St John's has no state funding but a large endowment built up over centuries of generous benefactors and legacies. 

We had members from hospices, addiction services, trusts, disability, homelessness, medical research and social care. I like doing these lunch time events with members because you get a great feel for what is going on at the sector front line. It also keeps you in touch with what members want from you. One thing is for sure, I've not yet met the sector CEO that does not tell you what they think! 

And the lunch ( splendid hospitality Jonathan! ) gave me a real positive affirmation of what we do to support CEOs in their leadership role; its a job only ACEVO can do. 

Going on from an ancient and venerable institution to a brand new and brilliantly designed Forster building was a treat. This hospital is a standing rebuke to those in the NHS who say there is no role for competition or for different ownership models; but the key is whether other parts of the NHS will learn from the way they do things. 

They base their model on clinical decision making, on a toyoto model " stop the line" approach on safety , on " hospitality" so treating " patients " as guests and a customer first approach. So their clinics start at 7.30 and finish at 9 to cater for those who work and are open at weekends! Some 50% of the patients come from NHS referrals under the choice mandate. 

What I found particularly impressive was their ideas on hospitality. Simple really; food and customer care is actually part of the process of recovery; well being requires both medical and personal care. So the food provided is of top quality; menus designed by a Michelin star chef; staff headhunted away from a 5 star local hotel.  And a realisation that nurses and doctors should provide the medical care but the skills and the work of supporting patients and feeding them is a different skill set and you need to free up nurses from the hospitality tasks better done by others. 

The food is locally sourced and served when the patients want their meals. And it does not cost more. Most NHS hospitals I know regard meals as a chore, the food is often appalling , as I have seen myself. When you are ill a little pampering is in order. Good food ( and indeed they even have a wine list! ) Is essential to good health care. The NHS has lost sight of some of the basics of health care- they provide world class medical care but sometimes forget the "patient". The feedback Circle get from their patents is superb because they feel they are treated like guests. One feedback form said they got a 99%mark of satisfaction. The other 1% dissatisfaction was because they had to go home. How many of our hospitals could you say that about?

And there is an interesting link here between the 2 hospitals; one third sector, one independent; the emphasis on " hospitality". As the history of St John's says, 

 " St John's was the first hospital in Bath...though this was not a medical institution; it was a place of refuge and care, where hospitality was dispensed in the form of food, shelter and charity. " 

Circle have rediscovered the value of such hospitality in our hospitals. This is a wider message for the NHS I hope they will learn. 

I got home and found a strange echo of that same message when I caught up on a BBC series of 60 Elizabethans featuring third sector heroine, Dame Cecily Saunders, founder of the hospice movement. Whilst working as a nurse in Tommies in the Second World War she realised that patients were getting good medical care but at the end of their life they needed compassionate and spiritual care which was not being provided. She said you have to treat the " total pain" of a patient which is both medical and personal. You need to provide both medical support but also " bring hope and consolation at the end ".
So again, hospitality in a wider context- back to the idea that inspired  Bishop  Fitzjocelyn to provide his refuge for the people of Bath. 

It is the inspiration and innovation that our charity sector can bring to the provision of health and social care

Wednesday 18 July 2012

Hodgson, Cameron and health

Well, it was a sight that surprised a number of the luiminaries of the third sector: Stuart Etherington and I sprawled on a sofa in No 10, glasses of white rioja to hand! We were at a reception for the Big Society Forum; Cameron on good form. I had a chat afterwards about how we are getting progress on  reforms in health.

And lots of my members there in summer pre Olympic mode! 

Amusing to note that any idea the occupants of No 10+11 would have a great view of the beech volleyball defused as there are rather large covered stands erected that block out that view. And in any case I see that if the weather continues it will be jumpers not bikinis!

An interesting end to Monday which had begun by a rabble rousing speech to a gathering of health professionals on the importance of the third sector, choice and competition. Much appreciated by some in audience. Less by others.

And then onto the Hodgson Launch. I was very familiar with the contents as I had a private briefing from his Lordship and then spent Sunday evening swatting up for an appearance on the Today programme with Hodgson.

Unfortunately got a call at just before 11pm standing me down. They decided not that newsworthy so they only did brief couple of minutes from Hodgson talking about barnacle scrapping.

Tuesday 17 July 2012

Employing staff!

Can be a joy. It's also sometimes fraught. It's not often I write on HR stuff- even though I was once an HR Director ( I'm sure it shows! ). But I know staff leadership is one of the core roles for a CEO and as I prepare for my own staff awayday ( I've been told to listen and not speak but there will be no video evidence of this bizarre phenomenon! ) I'm thinking HR!

The third sector is lucky to be able to attract highly talented and committed individuals. Over my time at ACEVO I've seen the interest in a career in our sector grow. Where once, in the 90s bright graduates all seemed to gravitate to the dens of iniquity in the City , they now look to charities and social enterprises.

And as the sector has grown in size so has our work force. Politicians sometimes forget we employ large numbers of staff. The Third Sector Research Centre estimates 1.1 million!

The cost of support services for our organisations is something ACEVO CEOs have been having to review.

So one of the new services we have been developing is on employment. Thanks to an invaluable corporate partner we have been able to develop this as a free service.

Ellis Whittam, are well known HR specialists and are now a strategic partner for ACEVO, which means more free support for members including:
- Guides on things like; redundancies, remuneration, maternity/paternity leave, the dreaded health and safety policy (worth £300)

-Members can also access free 1 on 1 personalised advice session over the phone

My guess is many CEOs will have been too focussed on funding and other major challenges to have thought ahead to staffing issues through the Olympics.

A very good time then for ACEVO members to pick up the phone and try out the helpline for free advice on staffing issues ahead of the games!

You can find out more at

And it goes without saying if you are a third sector CEO and not in acevo; then you should be!

Monday 16 July 2012

Hodgson reviews Charities!

Today Lord Hodgson publishes his review of the Charities Act, with 113 recommendations for change, including proposals on allowing trustees pay in larger charities, enabling social investment , changing fundraising regulation and making charity Commission regulation more flexible.

He says he "values diversity over neatness" and backing trustees judgment and he is right!

The review represents a landmark in the modernisation of the charity sector. It builds on the '06 Act. The reforms proposed remain rooted in the sector’s proud history whilst opening the door to real change in the way we operate in the 21st century.

Great background in the glorious history of our country's charities ( modestly I should mention much drawn from my own Lectures on this, so its good !). But I like the approach, which is to strengthen the framework and systems but allowing more flexibility and trusting in the judgment of charities, their CEOs and Boards.

I expect there will be some whinging on trustee pay , but what he says is entirely sensible. For charities over 1 m he proposes that trustee boards have the discretion to pay their trustees.

This has to be right. If a charity believes it needs to pay ( not large sums let's be clear! ) then why should they not do so. I suspect the majority of ACEVO members will not take advantage of this flexibility but for those that have problems in recruting and retaining the best, why forbid them. We are a diverse not a stalinist sector.

In fact you can pay now ( it's not illegal to pay trustees) but the Charity Commission are so bureaucratic about it many give up. And frankly that also wastes CC time and money too.

We will need guidance on this and ACEVO will work with the commission in drawing that up.

I'm also delighted with the forward thinking being his proposals on social investment. Well done to hodgson for grasping this baton and arguing the value of charites looking at this new method of funding our sector.

There is much of value here and we will be fully involved in the consultation and implementation of proposals. Overall, a sensible modernising set of proposals.

The report, and recent crises of governance in the banking and media sector, give us reason to pause and ask how well governed our own organisations are.
So we all need to work together on these proposals. There is a lot in here on fundraising and I've already spoken to Peter Lewis at the Institute of Fundraising on how we progress it. And we will be discussing how to move forward with ncvo, and with Government and the Commission.

Friday 13 July 2012

St George's Hospital; a cause for concern?

I doubt there are many who were not shocked to hear the case of the young lad denied proper care and attention in St George's; the fact he was so desperate he had to ring 999. A disgrace.

But for me what was also shocking was the prepared statement read out from St George's management. An appalling illustration of a culture that puts the professional and management interest above that of the patient. Their " unreserved apology" was hedged about with caveats that implied they have excellent care for the rest of their million patients. This was somehow a one off. No hint of lessons learnt.

There was no indication they would review their care systems or their management and nursing standards. Consider whether their culture is putting staff above patient interest.

They have refused all requests for interviews. They are clearly in lock down mode. This is not the response we need nor patients at St George's deserve.

Unfortunately this is not an isolated example in our NHS. It is absolutely right there are superb and dedicated professionals in our health service. My own experience is of very high standards of care and attention. And I am sure that many of the professionals at St George's will also share my horror. So it is not simply a matter for St George's; all hospital trusts should take this opportunity to check their own care standards.

It is the task of senior management and the role of the CEO to set culture. What is the CEO of St George's going to do to ensure lessons are learnt? Not just for them but more widely for other hospitals. What will the non execs do to hold management to account?

The NHS belongs to the people. That's the grand claim of the NHS Constitution. The Future Forum is looking at the Constitution. We need a culture that puts the people and , in particular patients, at the forefront in decision making. This is something the newly formed CCGs will want to look at. They should be commissioning services from hospitals that ensure effective checks on patient care standards.

And the role of our own sector must be to speak for patients and demand the best possible care is provided. And we also must ensure our own culture is beneficiary centred. In my experience it is. But there is never room for complacency.

Thursday 12 July 2012

Welcome Home!

Congratulations to new ACEVO member Robin Evans. Today the Canals and River Trust take over the work of the quango British Waterways. A path braking move where a public body becomes a charity and can unleash the power and wealth of volunteers and donors to support and expand the work of this much loved institution.

As Robin, its CEO, was explaining this morning we have over 2000 miles of waterway. They have already built up a volunteer support that amounts to a staggering 35,000 days a year. They could only have achieved this through the plans to become a charity.

I have been supporting this move for years , since Robin and colleagues talked to me about the value of joining the third sector.

They have been able to negotiate a 15 years contract with Government as part of the transfer of assets.

This must point the way to other quangos. For example, its bizarre that the Big Lottery Fund is a quango and not a charity. The Care Quality Commission etc etc. Joining the third sector gives more independence and flexibility to act, to garner volunteers and to build a strategic role that is not dependent on the vagaries of Government.

So welcome the Canal and Rivers Trust and Robin. We want more converts. What a vote of confidence in the charity brand!

Wednesday 11 July 2012

Social care; progress?

Well , progress , of sorts. The White Paper on Social Care , out today at least establishes the principle of a cap on care costs. This was the core of the Dilnot report. however principles ,whilst useful I'm sure don't cut the mustard unless we know the actual figure.
I smell the dead hand of the Treasury. An accountant's short term approach which looks at costs now , whilst ignoring savings long term. The Treasury have traditionally been the barrier to reform. And we must resist attempts to tax the elderly for this change by removing long and hard fought for benefits like free public transport of file allowances. If we need to pay for a cap , then let's tax bankers bonuses , not the small but great benefit of a free TV licence for the over 75 s.

Let the HMT remember there is a cost to the health service by not progressing this reform. And there is a cost to individuals , and their families by failing to implement the Dilnot recommendation of a 35k cap now.

Of course there are other excellent parts of this White Paper. From 2015 there will be a national standard setting out who is entitled to help at home and residential care places.

At the moment, each of the 152 councils in England can set its own eligibility criteria for care for the elderly and disabled.this has led to great inequity and has caused charities many problems trying to make up the shortfalls of stingy councils.

Those who face the largest costs will also be able to defer payment until after their death.

This loan scheme, which is already available in some areas, means those who need to go into care homes and are not entitled to state funding - anyone with assets of more than £23,250 does not get help - will have their fees paid for and then recovered from their estate.Interest would accumulate on the loan.

Of course reform of social care has dogged many Governments and this is a step forward by DH. That must be welcomed. But the failure to sort the cap is deeply disappointing to ACEVO members who have fought hard for this.

Tuesday 10 July 2012

The Reith Lectures

They are a national treasure. This year's Lectures are being given by Niall Ferguson and the fifth and final one in the series " the rule of law and its enemies" today dealt with " civil and uncivil societies".

It is worth listening to- so get your iplayer out and tune in.

It is controversial, for while lauding the role of free association and of voluntary associations he argues the state has gone to far in provision and , in particular there is a role for more independent schools and for selection.

He does this becuase he argues,

" ...we need to recognise the limits of public monopolies in education, especially for societies that have long ago achieved mass literacy. The problem is that public monopoly providers of education suffer from the same problems that afflict monopoly providers of anything: quality declines because of lack of competition and the creeping power of vested producer interests."

An entirely valid point and one that reinforces ACEVO arguements on third sector service delivery.

He concludes with;

" I have proposed that our once vibrant civil society is in a state of decay, not so much because of technology, but because of the excessive pretensions of the state: a threat that Tocqueville presciently warned Europeans and Americans against.

We humans live in a complex matrix of institutions. There is government. There is the market. There is the law. And then there is civil society. Once – I’m tempted to date it from the time of the Scottish Enlightenment, this matrix worked astonishingly well, with each set of institutions complementing and reinforcing the rest. That, I believe, was the key to Western success in the 18th, 19th, and 20th Centuries. But the institutions in our times are out of joint.

It is our challenge in the years that lie ahead to restore them, returning to the first principles of a truly free society that I have tried to affirm ".

As I suggest , worth a listen!

Monday 9 July 2012

The CEO Summit

It was our annual Chief Executive Summit on Friday. The theme? Can your leadership embrace disruption!

An excellent day which mixed academic talks from Professors at the London Business School and the London Metropolitan University with sessions led by ACEVO members drawing on their own experiences.

I kicked off the day talking about the need for governance reform. ACEVO now has 23 live cases of CEOs in crisis , our service to support members in trouble. Most of these relate to breakdowns in the Chair/trustee relationship. Whilst the professionalism of the sector has grown apace in the last 25 years , the governance systems have not. This has been disruptive because even in situations where there is no crisis the relationship does not provide the strength you need. We need more flexibility to gave paid non execs amd unitary boards where organisations think that is good. We await the review being conducted by Lord Hodgson , reporting on July 16. And of course we hope that a new CC Chair will adopt an enabling role.

Perhaps the most fascinating talk was on innovation in management by Prof Julian Birkinshaw. He was suggesting that the way we manage in our sector is more productive than the private sector system of bonus and encouraging productivity through payment , where our sector does this by inspiration and motivation.

He said increasingly the private sector is looking to us for how we manage. And there is an interesting reflection on how the bonus culture in banks has corrupted behaviour and how greed as motivator has led to wider economic distress.

I used the example of a study in Australia by Prof Sandal who sent out 2 teams of fundraisers to raise charitable funds. One group was incentivised by performance pay and the other by inspiration about the mission. And you guessed it , the team who were motivated ny the mission seriously outperformed the others.

Anyway talking about innovation in management let me repeat a carton I saw in Third Sector some time back !

At No 10 again last week, but no sight of the cat this time. And still I don't know if it is No 10 or No 11 cat. I Saw Osborne on Thursday , perhaps I should have asked him! I was meeting in what was Mrs Thatcher's old office , now used for meetings. A little off putting to have her steely gaze in the portrait overlooking me!

Friday turned into rather a triumph for ACEVO. Not only did we lay on a successful CEO summit in London ( I'm told twitter was alive with praise!)we put on a Jobs Summit in the NE to discuss how to action the ACEVO Miliband youth unemployment report. A number of the delegates commented on how incredible it was that ACEVO had managed to get some many of the great and the good of the NE establishment into one room! This report has certainly hit the mark , only last week it was being quoted in a Lords debate and at a Select Committee. The credit for this must go particularly to Ralph Michell , my Strategy Director .

Wednesday 4 July 2012

Culture and Banking

“Culture is difficult to define...but for me the evidence of culture is how people behave when no one is watching. "

That, believe it or not, was Bob Diamond last year. So it was inevitable he had to go. With ill grace and only after pressure but he is gone. He it was who told the Commons Select Committee that it was, "time to move on " after the bonus row. Now we know why it was not. 

Tempting though it is to direct anger at an individual who has shown the worst aspects of the industry, it is important not to think if only we get rid of some at the top we will be able to " move on".

In fact, what has now become clear is that the banking and finance industry does not understand accountability. It does not understand the need to take responsibility for its own decisions, nor to operate in a transparent fashion. An industry that structures its pay systems to favour self interest over customers and to glory in excess. 

So whilst individuals must pay the price for their greed, there is a clearer need for major reform of the industry as a whole .  Acevo , with colleagues in the sector have formed a " better banking coalition" which has been arguing for reform.

 The Prime Minister has recently set out the need for both accountability and transparency in the financial sector. He is right. We need action to secure this. It is clear that the arrogance of those  leaders  of the sector inhibits change- it is an industry palpably incapable of reforming itself.

The banking and finance sector have had since 2008 to wake up and smell the coffee (  Blue Mountain presumably ! ) and , as illustrated by the excuses and denials of  the British Bankers Association , they have failed to do so.

A major independent review of the industry and legislation is now required. But we know already some of the tools we need for this reform and we should put those in place now. 

One recommendation acevo have made is for the interaction of a US style  CRA( community reinvestment act). That sets out requirements for the banks to demonstrate where they are lending and to whom. It means that banks face penalties if they are shown not to lend responsibly and across all communities. The case for such an Act has been argued for some time- by no less a figure than Sir Ronnie Cohen amongst is now time we had such an Act so that this industry can demonstrate transparency and accountability.  

There are also wider lessons from the way banks leaders have behaved. No one doubts there are thousands of very honest and good people in this industry. Our links with retail banking with RBS are good and I have spoken to many senior people in the bank who share my disgust at what has been going on.

On Friday we have our third sector CEO summit. As Chief Executives we know that one of our jobs is to set the culture and tone of the organisation. It is not possible to know the actions of all your staff. But you can be clear on what is right and ethical and what is wrong. Ripping off customers, as Barclays Capital have been shown to do, could not just have been a few rogues. The culture their clearly indicated such "big boy" behaviour was not just acceptable but encouraged. And rewarded by huge bonuses- the example set right at the top.

So at our CEO summit on Friday I intend to tackle this issue head on- not least because we meet at the RBS HQ in London.

Whilst I could understand the anger that my members feel at what has been going on we need to engage with the industry who are the foundation of growth that we need in the economy; argue for reform, and change in cultures.

With change we can reengage with the industry to make the case for broader lending to a wider community, to look at a growing role for social finance and loans to SMEs (amongst them third sector organisations).

The scandals at the top must be exposed and punished but the real task is reform.  

Tuesday 3 July 2012

Council Tour!

Spent Monday touring South London Councils; well to be specific: Sutton and Surrey CC.

In Sutton I was meeting the CEO Niall Bolger to discuss how we can work with them on developing partnership and consortia work. Acevo has developed a consortia toolkit which is being used now in a number of local authorities.

Then onto Kingston to the HQ of Surrey CC where I was meeting the Chairman of the Council and various directors. I did rather like the Chairman's wood panelled office ( no less than 2 pictures of HM- I approve! ) and Lavinia Sealy was great fun ; clearly engaged by the idea of a bigger role for the voluntary sector. We will be doing work with Surrey. In particular we had a fascinating chat about the potential for the sector delivering in health and how the Council, CCGs and our sector can work together. We also talked about the potential for loans.

A major dash back to London for a reception at HMT to celebrate Big Society Capital ( I'm on the trust board ). Nick Hurd MP engaging on how the idea of social finance is taking root and we had a private word on various matters relating to the Charity Commission. He was also asking about our new office move. He said the joke around was that Stuart and I would have separate lifts. I said yes- and separate champagne bars too!

But I didn't dawdle as it was on to Tom Flood's farewell party as he steps down from his CEO role at BTCV (or TCV as we know must call it! ). Tom has done a phenomenal job.  Well known around the sector for his achievement in building an innovative organisation and his great sense of fun. He will carry on his association with acevo as Chair of acevo solutions, our social enterprise arm. The party was at Interbrand. And the quality of the wine and food was at an altogether different level . The way Government hospitality is going I won't be surprised to receive a " bring your own". Still , we are all in it together......and let's face it I'd rather they spent money on the sector than wine ( if only!!! ) Stephen Bubb