Charities' poor relationship with government 'due to cock-up, not conspiracy', says Peter Holbrook

The chief executive of Social Enterprise UK was speaking at Acevo's annual conference on Thursday

Peter Holbrook
Peter Holbrook

The poor relationship between the government and the charity sector has been "the consequence of cock-up rather than conspiracy", according to Peter Holbrook, chief executive of Social Enterprise UK.

Speaking during a panel session at the chief executives body Acevo’s annual conference on Thursday, Holbrook said that the relationship with government has been "more strained in recent years than it’s been positive" and said the sector should seek an improved relationship with the new leadership.

He said: "Suffice to say, lots of things have gone wrong. But in my view this is not about some sort of conspiracy against us – it is the consequence of cock-up rather than conspiracy. This is a sequence of unfortunate events.

"What we now have to define under a new government with a new Prime Minister is an opportunity to redefine that relationship, because everyone will recognise that things have gone quite horribly wrong."

Holbrook also said the charity sector has to be more honest in explaining how modern charities operate if public misconceptions about the sector are to be addressed.

"As a sector ourselves, we have a bit of honesty and reflection to undertake," he said. "Not all of our current woes are a result of a difficult series of events in government. For too long we have been almost complicit in allowing the public and our stakeholders to have this unreconstructed notion of who and what we are as a sector.

"The sector is far more diverse and, in some respects, sophisticated than we allow many of our stakeholders to really understand, partly because it supports our fundraising efforts. We have to be much more honest – this is a perfect storm, but the future is ours to determine."

He said that if the sector is comfortable with how it operates, it should embrace transparency and "be a beacon of business at its best".

Discussing the various representative groups and infrastructure bodies in the sector, Holbrook said that "everyone is bored with the perceived competition between our organisations".

He added: "We need to get our acts together and work collegiately for the benefit of everyone in the sector."

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