Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Clegg speaks

Today is the Coalition’s hundredth day in Government, and I’ve just returned from Nick Clegg’s speech marking the occasion. A good speech on social mobility and fairness. I was quick to warn him that they are currently in real danger of building their house on the sands of public spending cuts. We continue to get evidence of cuts from members, and this is even before the CSR in October. I am asking members to continue to alert us on cuts.

I get a really shocking email on potential cuts for one particular area of the sector. As a sector we need to be a lot stronger in speaking out against cuts. There seems to be a "keep your heads down and it might go away" approach at the moment. Or worse still, a cowed or cowardly " let's not make a fuss or they might cut us " stance.

This is not sensible on either count. If we are not prepared to speak out we risk damaging our independence. And it rarely protects you anyway.

A great piece of advice I had early on in my career at ACEVO. A former PM was reputed to have said of ACEVO that we always have to pay attention to their view as they carry a strong constituency behind them who matter, and we can never take them for granted - as opposed to a whole bunch of organisations who won't complain whatever we do.

And no one who saw ACEVO in action to defeat the insane proposal from Burnham on preferred provider will doubt our mettle. I don't do doorstep. So ACEVO will work strongly with Government on areas of benefit to sector leaders - as we are doing on commissioning reform and service delivery, but where things are going wrong we will say so.

Clegg talked about how to achieve a fairer society and social mobility. Moving beyond "short termism". He said "promoting social mobility is our top priority; it's a badge of fairness".

This is good, and what is even better is that Alan Milburn is to do work on this. Alan is a good friend and supporter of the sector. He strongly believes in our delivery role and promoted that when in Government. Great to see the marvellous Richard Reeves at the talk - he was the key man behind the Milburn appointment. Good for him.

We have yet to see what substance there is to ideas on fairness and bigger society - difficult to judge on the basis of 100 days after all.

Ipsos Mori have done some interesting polling on Big Society. It shows awareness of the concept is rising and that, on balance people think it good their local area but less think it good for them personally. However 54% think its a good idea in principle "but won't work in practice" and 57% think it is"an excuse for the Government to save money by cutting back on services". When asked if they want to be involved 22% say No. 36% want "information only", 29% want a "say in decisions", leaving only 11% who "want to be actively involved". No surprises there.

ACEVO has published a brilliant guide for the CEO's first 100 days. Click here. It says at the end you need to now plan your next 100 days; reflecting on performance and judging what relationships you have built and those you have failed to build and how to remedy failures to build such relationships. This is particularly true of the failure to develop a strong relationship with the established sector. Instead they are too often relying on, as one of my members put it, "some new people being brought into the loop, a mixed bag - far too many 'new media' (and for profit) luvvies swarming around it for my liking."

Still, rarely can there have been a 100 days in Government where there has been more talk of our sector and the role we can play. Long may that continue.

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