Friday, 11 October 2013

Polly Toynbee, Sefton, Liverpool and PA of the Year.

One of the delights of the ACEVO job is the leadership lunches we arrange for members to hear from politicians, civil servants and other opinion formers. On Tuesday we had that formidable journalist, Polly Toynbee, to a lunch at our friends CCLA (ethical investors for the sector). Not only is she an intrepid commentator, but she has written extensively about income inequality. So she had some very topical comments about recent news stories on chief executive pay in charities.

She was keen to remind us of our strength. Our sector is vital for its beneficial impact on the lives of many of Britain's and the world's poorest and most vulnerable people. And when we speak our on their behalf, people listen to us. We are a strong force, particularly when we present a united front. And a great example of that is our current campaign by over 70 charities to challenge people's attitudes to people on benefits. In a case like this administration costs are not just a negative; they're an essential component to ensure we have maximal social impact. Though I admit we have yet to properly communicate this to the public.

So income inequality remains a defining public debate for our time. But when we look at average salaries in our sector relative to their social impact - and compared to the social impact of CEOs in the public and private sector - we see they offer tremendous social value for their money. That is key, even if it won't make a Daily Telegraph headline.And that's not to even mention the fact that the average salary of a FTSE chief executive is £4.3m as Polly reminded us! 
Yesterday I was in Sefton to speak at the Sefton CVS annual meeting. Packed out audience sitting in the Balliol St Methodist Chapel, a magnificent Edwardian building of great architectural note. Angela White is the dynamic CEO and a strong ACEVO member active in our regional forum. She runs a thrusting CVS who help support the local sector to deliver.

I gave them a barnstorming speech; an overview of our challenges and opportunities. "Hard Times and Great Expectations" was the Dickensian theme. Of course I was warning of the difficult climate ahead. The major cuts in funding still to come: 25 billion in the next 2 years; 43 billion in the 3 years after. Don't think these hard times for our third sector are over yet!

Then there are the attacks on our civil society rights to speak truth to power and our legitimate right and indeed duty to campaign. Wisely I'm sure (in case I got criticism), I told the audience that I have 6 dead relatives buried in Sefton. Limricks; descendants of my Anglo-Irish 3-times great-grandfather. Indeed my cousin of some degree is commemorated on the Crosby War Memorial!

I apologised for not having any living relatives there...

But its difficult to be in our sector and not be relentlessly optimistic. It's in our bones as CEOs. There are opportunities; for more work with government in delivery of services like rehabilitation and health and social care. The Government wants this alongside an expansion of social finance. It is not all doom and gloom. And our sector is often at its most magnificent when our leadership is tested. 

It was very gratifying to be told by a lady in the audience that it was the best speech she had heard for decades. And as she reminded me, at 90 she has heard many!  But I must not be immodest...

I spoke about the need for reform in health and social care.  And used the examples of dementia care. I was desperately hoping no one would notice that I had come to Liverpool wearing odd shoes. One black loafer and one brown one.....oh dear. A senior moment as they say.

I also facilitated a workshop!  Haven't done that sort of thing for years. One of my ACEVO team were very worried that I wouldn't be able to run a session where I let everyone else speak. What a cheek. 

But I was not finished and hot footed it to Liverpool 8 where I was meeting Clare Dove in her lair. Clare is the CEO of a famous social enterprise that is 30 years old. Situated in the grand former home of the Lord Mayor of Liverpool it became the first girls school in Britain. Much written about by Dickens; a theme there eh! Edwina Currie was educated there too. Now, Blackburn House is a multi-purpose further education and training centre, cafe and well-being spa amongst other activities. It's pretty impressive. 

Clare is also Chair of Social Enterprise UK and a new member of the Charity Commission. As you can imagine we touched on recent developments over our lattes in her cafe!

Well, while I've been away the ACEVO office has been in celebratory mood. My PA, Leeanne Graham (who has the pleasure of posting my Blogs amongst many other lovely tasks) was awarded the prestigious "PA of the Year 2013" at the Executive PA Magazine /Hays Awards on Wednesday at a glittering ceremony in the City. Beating off rivals in the private sector, this is a triumph for Lee and for our sector. What a great honour and well deserved. Of course as I said to her that means she has to stay with me for a long time. So no poaching. You have been warned!

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