Posts By: Stephen Cook

So who’s breaking the political rules?

Most of the recent rhetoric about charities being too political has been about challenges to the Conservative-led government: think of the row about the Oxfam tweet and criticism of charities by ministers including Chris Grayling and Eric Pickles. So it’s ironic that the first instances to come to light in the election campaign concern four charities that added their name to The Daily Telegraph’s front page plea to vote Conservative. The Charity Commission is asking them to “remedy the situation swiftly.”

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Remembering Terry Pratchett

I first met Terry Pratchett in the early 1970s when we completed the Lyke Wake Walk, a 40-mile route over the North York Moors said to cover paths once used to carry coffins to burial. He was a subeditor on the Bath Evening Chronicle, the former workplace of one of the other three of us, all reporters at the Telegraph and Argus in Bradford. The walk has to be completed within 24 hours if you are to become a “dirger”, join the Lyke Wake Club and claim your coffin-embossed tie. Read more on Remembering Terry Pratchett…

Progress on private schools and public benefit

When it brought in the Charities Act 2006, the last Labour government left it to the Charity Commission to try to ensure that independent schools provided sufficient public benefit to justify their charitable status and the tax advantages that go with it. Read more on Progress on private schools and public benefit…

B****cks or knitting? You choose…

A cartoon by Steve Bell a while ago showed a masked robber in the Big Society Bank being told that they didn’t have any money as such – only bollocks. “Put the bollocks in a bag, and hurry,” says the robber.

The original of this cartoon was presented as a farewell gift yesterday to Nick Hurd, who resigned as minister for civil society in July, by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations. Hurd was, of course, the apostle of social investment and one of his proudest achievements was the launch of the bank – actually called Big Society Capital – in 2012. Read more on B****cks or knitting? You choose……

Hurd leaves a long relationship

When Nick Hurd was introduced as the longest-serving charities minister
at a reception at the Institute of Fundraising convention last week, he muttered something enigmatic about how much longer it would last. Whether under pressure or otherwise, it seems likely he had already knew by then that he would be going. Read more on Hurd leaves a long relationship…

Paula Sussex and the bed of nails

The Charity Commission offered the job of chief executive to Paula Sussex at the end of February, and finally got around to announcing it yesterday. The delay is officially explained as “normal processes of appointment and resignation.” Being translated, this tends to mean various kinds of horse-trading, to-ing and fro-ing with the Cabinet Office, and sorting out the details of what is known these days as “the package”. Public appointments always seem to be delayed and long drawn-out these days; but at least we’ve finally got there. Read more on Paula Sussex and the bed of nails…

Was my dry January for the wrong cause?

It wasn’t hard, but I’m glad it’s over: that’s the best summary I can find for taking part in the Dryathlon for the second January running. Life without alcohol felt calmer, but lacked the sharpening of mood and thought that a glass of wine can provide. The secret, of course, is to keep things moderate as the year goes on… Read more on Was my dry January for the wrong cause?…

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What was the IoF up to?

What is one to make of the fact that the Institute of Fundraising, just over a year ago, drew up a confidential internal document scoping how it might merge the membership of the Fundraising Standards Board with its own? It was clearly more than a passing thought – the document, leaked to Third Sector, runs to nine pages and includes detailed analyses of current membership fees of both organisations and calculations of how a combined membership fee might work. Read more on What was the IoF up to?…

The mood music of the honours list

When you read the bi-annual honours lists, names occasionally appear that make you think, hang on a minute – haven’t they got an honour already? And you usually think that because the person is so well-known or has achieved so much that he or she definitely should have had an honour already: the gong is obviously overdue.

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Orbison was on to something

The more you read the National Audit Office report on the regulatory failings of the Charity Commission, the clearer it becomes that David Orbison, the former commission case worker, was onto something significant when he rebelled over the case of African Aids Action. He protested at the decision by senior management to close the case because he was convinced from his inquiries that there were serious shortcomings at the charity that required more determined intervention. The ensuing row led to his resignation and eventual success in claiming constructive dismissal, a decision against which the commission is currently appealing.

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