Bubb tells MPs that contracts are better than grants

Stephen Bubb, chief executive of Acevo

Bubb tells MPs that contracts are better than grants6

Governance | Vibeka Mair | 6 Jul 2011

Sir Stephen Bubb, chief executive of Acevo, told a select committee meeting yesterday that grants were "problematic" for the sector and that contracts were preferable.

The position puts Acevo directly at odds with Navca's take on the subject, as the CVS umbrella body has long argued that grants are vital for the sector.

Sir Stephen had been invited to speak at the Public Administration Select Committee (PASC) inquiry into the Big Society, after he had asked MPs for a session to address the criticisms made towards the voluntary sector at a meeting earlier this year.

The meeting, in January, saw charity representatives Sir Stuart Etherington, chief executive of NCVO, and Thomas Hughes-Hallett, chief executive of Marie Curie Cancer Care, forced to defend the sector’s right to campaign and charity chief executives' salaries.

In the PASC session yesterday, Sir Stephen defended charities' involvement in public service delivery, after PASC chair Bernard Jenkins MP accused some charities of being too dependent on public funding.

Sir Stephen argued that charities had delivered public services for centuries:

“It has been agreed that the role of the state is to provide free universal services and pay for them,” he said. “But they don’t necessarily have to be delivered by the state.”

He did, however, say that charities needed to ensure a diversity of funding, and said grants were sometimes "problematic":

“At least with a contract you have set an established relationship with duties on both sides,” he said. “Grants are a form of patronage.”

Charity campaigns

Sir Stephen also attempted to convince the committee of the sector's right to campaign, highlighting Shelter as an example.

“Shelter can be a right pain at times,” he said. “But the strength of its model is that through service delivery it becomes aware of the problems facing homeless people and can bring this to the table of government when discussing policy.”

In response, Conservative MP Robert Halfon argued that Shelter had issued press releases attacking government:

“When the Taxpayers Alliance do it, it is wrong,” he said. “So what is the difference?”

Sir Stephen said that the role for charities in campaigning was “crucial”:

“Charities can’t deliver services for a managerial case,” he explained. “Charities want a better place for beneficiaries.”

He continued: “Shelter is not aligned to a particular political party, like the Taxpayers Alliance.”


17 Jul 2011

6 April 2011 7:13PM
... here's something I heard asked in an event in 2009 or thereabouts
"... ACEVO's FCR course can be had for about the same price at any accounting college but one gets some 10 sessions with homework that is corrected, a text book and much more ... management and cost accounting"
Apologies to whoever said it if I did not quite get it correct in context i.e. I think the statement was about lack of professional standards in the sector and the drive to take on more public sector services.
But is it true is my question about the statement.
And it was said so matter of fact that the audience was left stunned with some muttering that it must be true.
No blubbering when you reply, please, Bubb!

13 April 2011 2:30PM
• stolen
Sorry was this a comment from someone who attended the FRC training, or did you attend?

In terms of value for money and professional standards; we ran the courses for 3 years which were heavily subsidised by Big Lottery Funding and trained over 1000 people. Once the funding came to an end we decided to continue the courses to meet need. We priced the course based on Full Cost Recovery, practicing what we preach. Included in the course was not only a day’s training, but the Full Cost Business Planner, the publication as well as a great deal of useful information. We have had great feedback about the training from a number of people.

13 April 2011 8:30PM
That was a swift closing down of comments on today's live Q&A with Bubb.
Pity I was called away.
But in response to Bubb's reply
I have both experience and training at the professional level in cost and management accounting.
On hearing the 2009 statement on FCR I obtained a copy of the FCR book and went through it and also obtained relevant tuition costs from several accredited accounting tuition providers.
ACEVO FCR was significantly overpriced as. But pricing the course according to the market inclination to pay is in itself no crime.
What was disturbing. on hearing the 2009 statement, was the realisation that ACEVO has not prepared the sector to ably handle this activity but preferred to promote it's FCR as an acceptable substitute.
ACEVO FCR is not an acceptable substitute.
This in the context that ACEVO has long been pushing for more and wider delivery delivery of public sector services by all sizes and types of Third Sector organisations..
You would have done better not to respond to the question.

18 Jul 2011
Response to [Stolen]

Apologies but above are found at


Lynn Chesterman
Chief Executive
The Grandparents' Association
11 Jul 2011

As a member of ACEVO I object to Stephen Bubb speaking on my behalf without any mandate. I feel that the views he puts forward are purely his own so I am now considering whether membership of the organisation is really worth it or am I supposed to be a member of a fan club?

Andy Benson
10 Jul 2011

My complaint about all this nonsense is not what Stephen Bubb does or does not think. My complaint is that he works for a membership organisation but none of his members appear to concern themselves with what he says on their behalf. Our own contacts with the field which are extensive indicate that there are thousands of voluntary groups that both value grants and are very unhappy about being pushed into running public services. Many of these will be ACEVO members I assume. So why not give Sir Stephen a kick up the ..... And if you want to know why delivering public services is such a bad idea have a look at our new pamphlet -

Andy Benson
National Coalition for Independent Action

Jay Kennedy
7 Jul 2011

If grants are a form of patronage, then the type of non-negotiable, one-sided, liability/risk transferring contracts which charities usually get from the state are a form of dictatorship...

John Marshall
Centrepoint Outreach
6 Jul 2011

Ref. "At least with a contract you have set an established relationship with duties on both sides". A contract should be an agreement acceptable to both parties. My experience when challenging unacceptable clauses was "That's what's on offer - take it or leave it!" A grant report of activity may be required - but is much easier to manage. I disagree with Mr Bubb!


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