News analysis: Panel has high social enterprise score

Representatives of small local charities are concerned that the new group set up by the Office of the Third Sector to advise it on voluntary sector issues relies too heavily on "the great and the good" and is weighted too heavily in favour of social enterprise.

Advisory team: the 12 representatives
Advisory team: the 12 representatives

The 12 members of the Third Sector Advisory Body were selected from 283 applicants. The interview panel included Labour peer and panel chair Jill Pitkeathley, Helen Stevenson and Pat Samuel, both deputy directors of the OTS, and legal services commissioner Dr Lily Segerman-Peck.

Neil Cleeveley, director of policy and communications at Navca, which represents local charities, said: "There is an element of the great and the good about it. We would like to see more grass-roots representation, without it becoming too large and unwieldy."

Brian Carr, chief executive of BVSC, which represents charities in Birmingham, said: "There seems to be a strong emphasis on social enterprise expertise in the mix, which is understandable and important. What's less obvious is grass-roots community-level and faith-based third sector perspectives."

A spokesman for the OTS said it was important to hear from organisations not among its 45 existing strategic partners - organisations that receive government funding in return for advice.

Two religious organisations, Faith Action and Church Urban Fund, are among the partners. "Social enterprise is a broad spectrum, so it's important to have people representing every aspect of it," he said.

Jonathan Bland, chief executive of the Social Enterprise Coalition, described the group as balanced. "We're pleased it includes representatives with business experience from both social enterprises and the private sector," he said.

Ben Wittenberg, director of policy and research at the Directory of Social Change, said the quality of advice and the ability of the OTS to act on it were more important than the group's membership.

"It will be interesting to see what the OTS will do if the panel tells it that it's made a bad decision," he said.

The gang of twelve

The new group includes Lynne Berry, chief executive, WRVS, which helps isolated people in need; Stan Crawford, managing director, Sherwood Energy Village, a sustainable housing social enterprise; Stephen Dunmore, consultant, former chief executive, Big Lottery Fund; Clare Gilhooly, chief executive, Cambridge House, which alleviates poverty in London; Michael Kelly, European head of CSR, KPMG; John Knight, assistant director, policy and campaigns, Leonard Cheshire Disability; Bhupendra Mistry Board member, Carnegie UK Trust and BBC World Service; Penny Newman, non-executive director, Social Finance, set up to prepare the voluntary sector for a social investment bank; Cliff Prior, chief executive, UnLtd, a charity that funds social enterprises; Abbie Rumbold, partner and charity specialist, law firm Bates Wells & Braithwaite; Danielle Walker Palmour. director, Friends Provident Foundation; Sir Nick Young, chief executive, British Red Cross.

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