"Do we look like people who prefer arguing to helping people?"

Third Sector columnist and chief executive of Speaking Up Craig Dearden-Phillips on how he navigated last week's financial crisis

Craig Dearden-Phillips
Craig Dearden-Phillips

I started last week with a vague unease about where our reserves were kept. I had a hazy recollection of an account set up by my former finance director, which placed our reserves in foreign accounts.

By Wednesday, news had broken about Iceland's banks I started to quietly panic. I phoned my new FD and asked her to check out exactly where our money was that day. She found out, and thankfully it is spread among 35 national banks all rated "A-Pure" by some ratings agency. Just one going down would see us lose 1/35th of half a million quid.

Bad, but not as bad as the three charities that between them appear to have lost £25m for now. The real figure will, of course, be a lot higher. There must be loads of CEOs like me who don't really know where the money is and haven't yet got round to finding out.

Apparently the crisis is so bad that the voluntary sector is finally, for the first time ever, speaking with one voice to Government. All the main bodies went together (yes, TOGETHER) to speak to Treasury Minister Paul Myners on Friday. And on Any Questions, Harriet Harman gave a massive hint that the Government will help the most affected charities.

Charities have been all over the media. I hope the various heads of our sector take note of what happens when we come across as a united force and not a bunch of squabbling squirrels nicking each other's nuts.

Which is just how a bunch of organisations in Leicestershire looked this week when the county council there, after two years waiting for a sector-led proposal, ending up putting a big piece of work out to tender for them to fight over. In typical fashion, we ended up looking like people who prefer arguing to helping people. No wonder, as Sir David Henshaw said in a recent speech, councils prefer dealing with the private sector. They may be tough and commercial but at least you know what you're dealing with. We are completely un-predictable - and in business-terms, that's deadly.

Almost as deadly as an inviting rate of interest somewhere north of the Arctic Circle.

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