Third sector at large: Disaster appeal? I'll hang on to the money, thank you

Acevo's Big Society Commission and last week's Public Administration Select Committee on the sector are on our minds this week

- A sobering rebuttal from the academics to all the optimistic talk about the sector's future income and the propensity of the young to give generously. The psychology department of Royal Holloway, University of London, gave £3 in 50p pieces to 196 students, along with harrowing details of an attack by rebels on an African village, where survivors would face disaster without their help. All of them believed the story (which was actually fictitious) and the majority gave at least one coin. But 46 gave nothing - saving up for their tuition fees, no doubt.

* We've all been undone by email, and last week it was Ian Bradford, chief executive of Rushcliffe Council for Voluntary Services in Nottinghamshire. "I wasn't aware this was to be an open letter," he replied plaintively when the local infrastructure consortium sent a strongly worded protest about county council cuts to Uncle Tom Cobley and about 500 others, including the media. But alas, his protest did the rounds too, prompting an unkind message from Cllr Darrell Pulk: "Ian, it would appear that you are now."

* The person leading Acevo's Big Society Commission will need a glass-half-full attitude and a strong constitution - only last week, after all, 74 per cent of the eggheads at a Royal Institution lecture agreed that big society was "a meaningless slogan". So who better to chair the commission than Lord Rennard, former chief executive of the Liberal Democrats, who proved to a Third Sector reporter after the overnight upper house debate on the voting system last week than he can stay coherent after only 20 minutes' sleep. Why on earth did he take it on? "Stephen Bubb's a very persuasive man," he chirped.

* Backbench MPs like to show off a bit when taking evidence, and last week's Public Administration Select Committee hearing on the sector and the big society didn't disappoint. Some of them felt NCVO boss Sir Stuart Etherington was light on detail in his proposition that there was scope for cuts in public sector bureaucracy. Eventually the Conservative Bernard Jenkin burst out: "You're sounding like a minister!" Was this an insult? A compliment? Etherington the unflappable maintained his usual calm. Sir Stephen Bubb has now delivered a broadside in his blog against the committee's views on public funding of charities, concluding: "Let me at 'em." Alas, the committee is not taking the risk - it has asked him to give oral evidence only.

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