I spent the weekend on a very intensive personal development course. It was challenging and ultimately inspiring. I am making lots of changes in the way I think and act as a consequence (email me if you want to know more about the course).
So, I was already in a slightly strange place when I arrived to chair an all-day conference hosted jointly by the Department for Communities and Local Government and the Office of the Third Sector. The conference of local authorities and third sector groups had been organised around the announcement of Government’s plans for what are called ‘community anchors’ (cross cutting, community based third sector organisations). Only one problem. The night before the conference, ministers had pulled the announcement. So there we were, 200 people, including two ministers, to discuss the implementation of a plan that had been shelved! As it turned out the conference was fine, and I suspect many of the ideas that came out of it will be reflected in the plan when it does finally see the light of day.
The plan was pulled because of an unresolved argument about whether central government could specifically earmark the community anchor funds or should devolve the money to local authorities merely with guidance as to how it should be spent. However this argument is resolved, it does at least show the Government is taking seriously its commitment to reduce the funding constraints and targets it imposes on localities. Ministers, interest groups, and commentators tend to speak with forked tongue on devolving power. We attack the Government for centralisation but then protest either at ‘postcode lotteries’ or when money that has previously been earmarked for a particular policy or scheme we favour is made subject to local discretion.
This week saw us recruit our 27,000th Fellow. This is fantastic news and mainly down to the hard work of our brilliant fellowship team. We are also recruiting more Fellows through the recommendation of existing FRSAs so let me also thank all of you who have helped us reach this milestone. Onwards to 28,000!
We shouldn’t underestimate how far our societies have pulled apart. Yet there is hope for renewal, says Anthony Painter. The question is not whether we come together – but how.