Friday, 11 June 2010

"Grow your own" and Glad Rags

I enjoyed the Gift Aid meeting. Met Justine Greening MP, The Treasury Minister, for the first time (as Lindsay said to me aren't Ministers looking younger these days). She was good. Clearly knows the importance of Gift Aid to charities from her own constituency. A rising talent; name to watch I predict!

Nick Hurd MP was joshing me, correctly, about wasn't I boycotting these meetings! Correct. But I came along in expectation of delivery this time. Yes, we want simplification. But transitional relief ends in April 2011 - just at a time when cuts bite hard on many, particularly smaller charities. Giving will be even more important as a source of funding for our sector. So let's keep it and look at higher rate reform too.

To be clear: transitional relief going will potentially lose us £300m and a rise in VAT cost us £150m. We cannot afford to lose these sums at a time when our charity work is ever more needed. Tough times.


Me, Justine and Nick with Lindsay Boswell of the Institute of Fundraising

Eco Warrior, Tom Flood, CEO of BTCV and one of my Trustees and ever inventive, has come up with a "Grow your own food" recipe book which he proudly presented to me on Tuesday. Produced by BTCV it aims to cut the carbon cost of the food we eat. And its free. So get a copy. (Click here )

I'm an enthusiast for growing my own fruit and veg. My early potatoes are coming on fine and the strawberries are under net and doing well alongside the pak Choi and the artichokes. They are all mixed in with shrubs and flowers; none of those anally retentive separate beds. And on Monday I planted a peach tree, alongside the apple. I also have plum, gage, pear,blueberry, grape vine (naturally) and olive. Is it a sign of becoming old when you start raving about your vegetables? At least I'm in good company; my Vice Chair is a great veggie grower too. But I shall try to avoid bragging about the size of my aubergines! In vegetables, as in life, small is not always beautiful.

And then it was off to change into my glad rags (well, not exactly rags; my gorgeous white silk DJ which often excites comment and sometimes gets me mistaken for a waiter!) for the Charity Finance Awards dinner. In a hotel this year, rather than a tent. One of the sector's more glittering events; a chance for the sector glitterati to parade and gossip....



I was on a table with stars like Dame Tickell, Chris Kelly, and the doyenne of volunteering, Dame Elizabeth Hoodless (CSV won the overall best charity award; good for her).

And the celebs were out in force to present awards.

Jo Brand, the world's most fab comedian introduced the Awards. Jo once worked as a mental health nurse in Brixton with my partner so I'm very fond of Jo. And she sparkled. But also made the point, we must never develop giving fatigue.

Nick Hurd MP gave the final award: an excellent winding up speech that shows if he bombs as a politician, a career in show biz awaits. As David Carrington on my table said, "Better than most of the presenters".

Julia Unwin won the leadership award. Julia is a great sector figure of charm and intellect, and who has made an indelible mark on the sector.

And she reminded us that we must never, ever lose our ability to "speak truth to power". It was a salutary end to a starry evening!