Third Sector at Large: Banter between MPs might just be a load of hot air

Sir Alex Ferguson's hairdryer treatment and Eric Pickles's mystery Leed's based volunteers are on our minds this week

The hairdryer treatment is now part of the Work Programme, it would seem
The hairdryer treatment is now part of the Work Programme, it would seem

- The charities minister Nick Hurd introduced Chris Grayling, the employment minister, to talk about the Merlin Standard in the Work Programme at a workshop last week. Grayling was a Man U fan, Hurd warned, and those who did not follow the code of practice would get "the full hairdryer treatment". Grayling chuckled knowingly. For those indifferent to football, this refers to Sir Alex Ferguson's practice of putting his face very close to that of an offender and shouting very loudly. It's also a top example of Tory ministers soliciting cred by showing familiarity with sports other than croquet, fox hunting and point-to-point.

- More male joshing came at last week's meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Civil Society and Volunteering. It was sparsely attended, but David Blunkett and his guide dog arrived halfway through. "Ah, David," called out the group chair, Alun Michael MP. "You're the one person I can say this to - it's packed out and you've been lucky to get a seat." Or words to that effect. Blunkett played along, but he wasn't fooled.

- Communities secretary Eric Pickles told a conference the same day a heart-warming story of volunteers in Leeds who took over a community drug treatment centre. Leeds-based social entrepreneur Rob Greenland couldn't think who Pickles meant, and took to Twitter to find out. Eventually, Pickles' department announced it was a group called Barca - but that's an organisation with more than 50 full-time staff. "We would just like to confirm that we are not who Eric Pickles talked about today," it tweeted. Hmm. Mystery deepens.

- A couple of years ago, HM Revenue & Customs began requiring charities to file accounts through an online system called iXBRL. Larger organisations should pay accountants, it said, but small ones could use free HMRC software. Trouble was, the software didn't actually have spaces for certain charity items - Gift Aid, for example. HMRC offered a temporary exemption, but not to trading subsidiaries. So spare a thought for Action Against Medical Accidents, where the subsidiary turned over £280 last year. It's having to pay to file its figures, and its accountants have agreed to charge at cost: £250. Do the sums.

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