Loans are all the rage. Last night I joined around 200 people who went to all-hail them at a House of Commons reception organised by the Social Investment Business.
Proceedings were delayed by a parliamentary lobby of hundreds of kindly-looking middle-aged people wearing ‘Homeopathy Worked for Me’ t-shirts, which caused 30-minute delays getting through security.
We were then treated to speeches by not one, not two, but three senior politicians, each trying to outdo the other in their love of loans and charities in general.
First up was third sector minister Angela Smith, who effused about Futurebuilders, the government fund managed by the Social Investment Business that has awarded £125m of loans to charities to help them win public service contracts.
The fund, she said, was “one of the most innovative set up by government and investees had won 230 contracts worth £46m”. After finishing her speech she immediately left.
Shadow Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude then said “a rich and innovative range of finance would be available to charities under a Tory government”.
He said contract bidders could expect more payment by results, with payments coming later rather than sooner, and that loans were a good way of ensuring charities could bid with the big boys. I think this was being presented as good news.
Maude said the proposed social investment wholesale bank “had been in gestation longer than an elephant”, and pledged his party would get on with it. He then left.
Hilary Armstrong, Labour MP for North West Durham and former Minister for the Cabinet Office, topped everyone by saying the sector is “critical to how this country sees itself and how this country can move forward”. She didn’t elaborate on what she meant by this, but she did say social finance was one way of making it happen. And she did stick around to mingle afterwards.