Friday, 17 December 2010


The “new realism” I referred to last week has continued into this week. A draft budget was approved by a sub group of our Trustees and will go forward to the full Trustees on 8 February. It is a deficit budget, proposing that we draw heavily on reserves. We know this is unsustainable and so have strategy for the future……which I’m not disclosing! Many voluntary organizations will be in the same position.

The calendar year 2011 will be a crucial one for voluntary organizations providing support services in Surrey, for whilst Surrey CC is helpfully maintaining its core funding in 2011/12, there will be a reduction of 30-35% in 2012/13, and so we have to take on this challenge to regain revenue, and/or reduce costs.

However, we will be positive about what we have to do, not least in focusing tightly on what our members want. The good news from our members ‘satisfaction survey is that 93% of respondents are either very satisfied or satisfied with our services. This survey gives us a bench mark from which to improve further.

And this brings me too to the Surrey County Council’s Public Value Review of its Services for Young People, which is going to their Cabinet for approval on 21 December, and about which I am on BBC Radio Surrey at 8.00 am on Monday morning. A pithy summary is that it is proposed to:
  • move to an outcomes based commissioning model based on an assessment of needs,
  • transfer the management of the 35 youth centres to the voluntary sector so that use of the buildings can be enhanced by the voluntary sector bringing in extra services
  • decentralize some £2.5mill budget funding to the eleven  County Council Local Committees, so that they can commission what is needed locally
  • move the flagship Outdoor learning Centre to an arm’s length trading unit  and eventually to become a social enterprise basis. 
My view is that these are mostly fairly bold but desirable changes, consistent with the emphasis on Decentralisation and Localism reflected in the Government’s important Bill of this name published this week. The move to a commissioning model is not unusual, but it will be a challenge to define outcomes in a credible way.

Turning to other matters we are running a one day Faiths in Action workshop on Wednesday 23 February so that young people and adults of different faiths can talk about what their faith means to them. Details are on our website and a booking form will be available in the first week of January.

This is my last day at work until 4 January ….I have to write two long essays over Christmas for my MA Theology, so apart from the usual Christmas family events, carols,  and friendship I will be busy typing away in the university library …but in truth I enjoy it hugely!

Have relaxing and enjoyable Christmas and New Year


Friday, 10 December 2010


I fear this has been the week when I have come to fully appreciate the impact of the cuts, which has been a dominant theme of meetings this week.

The 14-19 Partnership Board had a briefing on the impact of cuts and funding uncertainties in that sector. Whilst the concentration nationally has been on the increase in student fees, little attention has been given to the cutting of Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) to college students, and its substitution with a new grant, but the published figures show a cut in the EMA from £700m to £70m. This will be a severe disincentive to young people from needy families to go to college. The changes in the Education White Paper are also very significant.

Locally, Surrey CC has reviewed its funding support to voluntary sector support service organizations, and whilst it is very commendably protecting core funding in 2011/12, at the expense of the loss of its own staff, all current grant recipients are on notice of a 30-35% cut in 2012. We have just prepared our budget for 2011/12, and will have to draw heavily on reserves, but 2012 looks grim. However at least there is a year to plan, and the words “collaboration and/or merger “ are on everyone’s lips (or should be!).

On a more positive note, we are making good progress with Surrey CC colleagues in initiating a social impact bond (see website) and I am delighted that two Surrey CC staff are to be seconded to us on a part –time basis from January to March. If we are all to get out of the predicament of cuts in the public and voluntary sectors, low economic growth, and social disruption it will be through innovation and effective collaboration between the three sectors (public, private and voluntary).

We are updating our website to facilitate links to corporates especially about volunteering opportunities for their staff; this is to be re-launched at the end of January.  I am also hoping that the two seconded staff can help us to develop our “surrey youth enterprises” site.

Another important Big Society development this week is the publication of the new Localism Bill, which includes very significant devolution of powers to local communities about planning matters and transfer of assets (buildings) to communities.

And finally ….you will want to know from last week’s blog about my experience of eating sheep’s testicles (sic) at a Turkish restaurant…”tastes just like chicken” !

Mince pies, mulled wine and first carol concert this week-end…much safer! 


Friday, 3 December 2010

Meetings & Snow

Hi everyone - this is my blog for the last two weeks as I missed out
last week as I was facilitating a continuous professional development 
day for the six MAYouth and Community students for whom I am responsible
under the terms of the agreement we have in the Brighton Consortium. It
was a very good session, and indeed inspiring to hear about the issues
that they face as voluntary sector youth workers.  They are a very
committed bunch and great to work with.

I had a meeting last week with a colleague who is setting up a workshop
with Michael Gove as the principal speaker, and to which Surrey Youth
Focus and Surrey Youth Consortium are hoping to contribute. More later.

This week has been dominated by snow, England not being a World Cup
football venue, but the English cricketers doing well against Australia!

As we have not had any central heating at the Astolat offices for nearly
two weeks (burst water pipe) I was glad of the snow on Wednesday to be
working at home, as now. Home-working is quite a skill,  involving
clever IT and lots of personal discipline..I am not sure I'm great at

Several meetings have been cancelled...understandably when Surrey Police
warn that one should only travel in an emergency. However I have been
working on a revised paper on the direction of travel for Surrey Youth
Focus for the next year or more (into 2012), and this concentrates on
Surrey Youth Focus being an enabler/ facilitator of partnerships.

As an example, I am in discussion with Surrey CC about taking a social
impact bond project forward on a pilot basis, and I have a worked
example from a member organisation to put forward. This could be a very
imporant development as an innovative means of funding.

Surrey CC's youth development service reorganisation plan (Fit for the
Future) has cleared their Select Committee and now goes forward to their
Cabinet on 21 December, and the level of funding for the volunatry
sector in 2011/12 will become clearer soon. There are Budget
consultation sessions on 15 December, and 26 January coming up.
Challenging times.

We're off to London on Saturday (trendy Stoke Newington) for youngest
son's 30 birthday lunch at a Turkish restaurant with the whole of our
family, and his mates - should be fun...let's hope we can get back home

Stay safe, keep warm!