Friday, 24 June 2011


Hi everyone,

I have just finished proof reading the next edition of Surrey Youth News (our 50th edition) and am stunned by the amazing amount of fund raising that is being done by our members.

Woking YMCA has just opened a new £2.6 mill 24 bed residential facility for vulnerable young people; Redhill Y have just raised £1 mill for their centre for disabled people, but also Halow, Disability Challengers , Matrix…the list is endless…and the energy, enterprise  and courage of the walkers, cyclists, runners, abseilers is remarkable. Very inspiring.

I was at the Joint Cadets meeting on Monday evening, and am struck by the fact that there are some 2,000 Services cadets in the county, and by the dedication of the retired officers supporting them. Tuesday was the Surrey Community Action Annual Conference, at which I was running a workshop on Social Finance. This was closely followed by an 8.00 am breakfast event at Brooklands by Surrey SATRO and the Surrey Chamber for young people about opportunities in science and technology. That same evening was the Chairman of the County Council’s formal local government dinner…lots of interesting discussions.

SO….I have done a lot of listening and talking (“networking”) over the last few days, and I am clear that there are two forces at work pulling in different directions: we have the Big Society, the Localism Bill, the Giving White Paper and the forthcoming Civil Service White paper- all pushing in the direction of empowering individuals, families and communities. And yet we also have a political and managerial psychology that says “people can’t be trusted”, “the vol sector will mess it up – keep it in house”, and that control and cost saving is preferred to empowerment and local diversity…so for example Academies report directly to the Secretary of State for Education. The net result is that at present we are stuck in the “don’t  know whether to centralize (save costs/ commission/ procure/ control) mode”, or let go…and decentralise. Some are reluctant to innovate and indeed to lead, and so there is a risk of organizational paralysis, risk aversion, and adherence to familiar (bureaucratic) processes. 

Which brings me in a roundabout way to the increasing complexity of the current four youth service contracts, and, separately to the difficulty we’re having in getting Surrey CC to engage about its residential care costs for young adults with disabilities, which we think can be substantially reduced by one of our member organizations enabling those young people to be enabled to live independently in the county. A long arranged and key meeting was cancelled at nil notice. The contrast with my meeting last week with the social entrepreneurs prepared to invest in this project is just stunning. I wonder which of these countervailing forces will win out in the long run, both nationally and locally ?

I will ruminate further whilst spending the next four days (Sat- Tues)  walking the South Downs Way with one of my sons (nearly 80 miles – Buriton, nr Petersfield to Beachy Head ). On Wednesday my wife and I are at a famous garden party in London ,  and then having dinner at another son’s restaurant (Magdalen, Tooley St.).  Fashion, food, and gardening tips to follow next week!

Plenty of sun cream this week- end – have fun.

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