Society Diary: Air conditioning units, council chambers and Danny Kruger

14 Aug 2020 Voices

Definitely not live scenes from Civil Society Media's HQ, where Diary has been working very hard not snoozing under the air con

No, your eyes do not deceive you, Diary has made a triumphant return to the Civil Society family. Instead of riding into the office on white horse (although the company policy on office horses is ambiguous), Diary staggered back to CSM towers this week in desperate search of air conditioning.

Everyone else is made of sterner stuff and has been sweating it out at home (or like at least one member of the editorial team, they have splashed out on their own air conditioning unit), which means Diary has had the run of the place!

Unfortunately, there has not been much to do: all the office plants have expired, the fridge was empty, and Diary hasn’t cracked the code on the box marked “top secret news stories”.

Anyway, let’s get caught up on all the important charity news from the last few weeks.

Dispatches from the shires

All rookie reporters know that local council meetings can be a great source of news, and boy does the Oxford Mail have a scoop: 'Dangerous precedent' of allowing charities to speak at council meetings.

Clearly this requires further analysis.

There’s nothing unusual about the start of the story. A local charity, Children Heard and Seen, has been given a Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, prompting the uncontroversial suggestion from an independent councillor, Neville Harris, that the council should formally congratulate the charity for its sterling work.

The Oxford Mail then reports that he made the shocking suggestion to “invite the charity to speak at one of its committees with the aim of learning from its work and how it supports children”.

This appears to have been too much for some, Tory (sorry, but it is always a Tory) councillors, and some Labour (ah right yes, always Labour too – we really are running out of parties).

Conservative councillor Steve Harrod was worried that hearing from the charity would “set a dangerous precedent”. This would lead to the council being inundated with charities wanting to tell elected leaders what things were like in the community.

The horror. Imagine local councils making decisions informed by evidence from charities and others working on the ground. What would the country come to?!

Labour opposition leader Liz Brighouse was not in favour for a different reason. She is worried that charities might be intimidated by the big scary council. She has clearly not spoken to the same charity leaders Diary speaks to…

According to the Oxford Mail, she said: “Rather than being inundated with charities, I think we would rather send a message out to charities that great, big sister Oxfordshire wants to call you in and scrutinise what you are doing. That is not the message we want to send out to charities doing really, really good work.”

The Lib Dems backed the motion, but it was ultimately voted down, to the exasperation of the independent councillor who, according to the paper, “said he had only hoped that an ‘appropriate’ committee might be able to listen to the work of Children Seen and Heard, and that it did not need to be scrutinised”.

So, in summary, the council is happy to sing the praises of a local charity, but definitely doesn’t want to hear about its work because that would be far too difficult. Diary spent a full 30 mins bashing our head against a brick wall so you don’t have to.

Hot stuff

When not beating our own brains out, we have spent the last week covered in a damp cloth, sweating out of our eyeballs and praying for an end to summer. Peeking out from under that cloth, it became apparent that some people were embracing weird and wonderful ways to raise cash for charity amid the Sahara-like conditions. Diary was baffled but also impressed.

So we raise a knackered salute to Nikki Love, who is hoping to raise £10,000 for Children With Cancer UK by running the equivalent of 96 marathons in eight weeks from her treadmill in Nottingham.

Love had planned to fundraise by running in Australia which, Diary’s antipodean colleague tells us, is also very hot this time of year, before Covid kiboshed those plans. “So far it’s been a major test of endurance,” Love said, and we believe her. Only six more weeks to go…

She might take some inspiration in turn from Peter Hardie, who has travelled fewer miles (a piddling 137, and on a bike) but has done so on an alphabetical tour of the towns and villages of East Lothian. Hardie jumped out of bed at 4am and headed off to Aberlady, then Ballencrieff, then Cockenzie, then – well, you get the picture.

The money goes to the Edinburgh Children’s Hospital Charity, and you have to say it is Awesome. Brilliant. Cracking. Derring-do! I’ll stop there.

And both might look admiringly at Captain Tom Moore, the nation’s (and Diary’s) favourite coronavirus campaigner, who after raising £33m for NHS charities by walking around his garden many, many times is now being commemorated in art. A portrait of 100-year-old Cap. Tom – now Sir Tom to his friends – will be unveiled tomorrow in time for VJ Day.

Tom “finally sits still”, according to the Times, but it’s surely only a matter of days before he is shinning up mountains to buy new uniforms for nurses and putting us all to shame.

They seek it here

And finally, in the more mundane world of Westminster, a mystery is unfolding.

Some stapled-together pieces of paper, a mysteriously-titled “charity review”, was entrusted to one Danny Kruger MP. (Some charity leaders go quite weak at the knees at the mere mention of his name, but that is for another day). Diary is glad that Danny K kept his eye on his review, given the weeks of work that civil society types put in to help him write it.

But word reaches us that these precious pages have gone missing. Diary understands that some weeks ago they were passed on to Very Important People behind a big black door, who promptly forgot about them, or ignored them, or – sorry – “are considering its findings and will respond in due course”.

Just a polite request from Diary to the big black door. People who need charities are scrambling to get the help they rely on. Five thousand charity staff have lost their jobs (so far). Some charities are closing their doors, with more to follow suit. Maybe now really is the time to work “at pace”?

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