Thursday, 23 January 2014

Fun at the House

It was that time of year; the annual meeting of ACEVO and our Parliamentary reception. Last year we had snow but yesterday it was quite mild. I hope that's a reflection of a milder climate for charities and social enterprises in 2014.

"Optimism" was the theme of my speech. Well worth reading (he says without ego!). See it here

I used a fabulous quote from Proverbs to illustrate our historic role:

"Speak out on behalf of the voiceless, and for the rights of all who are vulnerable. Speak out in order to judge with righteousness and to defend the needy and the poor."
Proverbs 31: 8-10

It was highly relevant as a short while earlier in the House of Commons we had the result of the votes on the vital Lords amendments on the Lobbying Bill, proposed by the former Bishop of Oxford Lord Harries. It's a disgrace the Commons have rejected the very sensible proposals of our Commission on Civil Society on staff costs and constituency limits. Both will greatly constrain our role in speaking out for communities and our duty to promote a healthy debate in a democratic society. We will urge the Lords to stand firm. They must assert our right to campaign. And if the Government have any sense they will seek a compromise. We are more than happy to meet with Government to hammer out a sensible middle way, but compromise is the right way forward now and the Civil Society Commission will hope to have those discussions soon.

Our Parliamentary reception brought together Liz Kendall MP, the opposition health Minister, Nick Hurd MP our Minister and the CEO of CAF Bank. Peter Ostacchini.

Liz was great. A former ACEVO member when she was the CEO of the Maternity Alliance, she was very generous in her tribute to our role in supporting and briefing. She said she would "fall on" our briefings about what was going on as essential reading. And she was clear that our sector must play a major role in better public services.

It was a theme picked up by Nick Hurd. As he said: "The big question for any Government will be how do we give people better public services with less money?" And we are crucial to that answer.

He also made the point about the trust in our sector as opposed to so many other institutions. He argued that where trust goes, power flows. So whatever we might think about the challenges of 2013 on pay, lobbying or ethical investment, there is much to be optimistic about.

Good to see many of our members turning up for our AGM and then at our reception. Always fun to do that in Parliament where we can network with our legislators more informally. And, of course pick up gossip.

I'm now on my way to Liverpool where I'm donning my Social Investment Business Chair's hat to launch our Local impact Fund; a new £2m loan fund for the sector which is supported by the Local Economic Partnership and Liverpool Council. More on this later.

I always love a chance to visit Liverpool. I have 8 dead relations there, as I shall tell the Mayor!

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