Third Sector at Large: Come into the garden, Maude# - or the street will do

Francis Maude, the Charity Commission, Alison McKenna and Peter Wanless are on our minds this week

- Ministers can be quite elusive, but one technique is to lurk in the road and accost them as they scurry to and fro. Last week, a Third Sector reporter found herself waiting to cross Whitehall beside the Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude, and tackled him without hesitation about that day's BBC story about private companies allegedly being obliged to involve the sector in any public service delivery contracts they win. He spoke freely. In fact, he said the story was "absolute crap". And off he breezed through the security gate into his office.

* Readers will recall that the Charity Commission suspended its open board meetings in January: a median of 3.5 people had come to the 2009/10 series. The promised new approach is public meetings on the strategic issues facing the sector, complete with speakers and presentations. All well and good, but the first one is at a small hotel down a single-track road near Bridgend on 26 May. They couldn't get anyone at all to the last meeting in the conurbation of Liverpool, so will many more make it to the depths of the Welsh countryside? Lunch is promised.

* A call from the Judiciary of England and Wales: Alison McKenna, president of the charity tribunal, is happy for the world to know that she went not to Dogsbreath Comprehensive, but to Our Lady's Abingdon School in Oxfordshire. Hers was the missing page in last week's quick riffle through the education of the three tribunal judges who will next week consider the question of public benefit provided by fee-charging schools. Our Lady's Abingdon currently charges up to £3,660 a term and has clearly changed a great deal since McKenna's day: it's no longer run by the Sisters of Mercy, for example, though it still has a "Catholic ethos"; and - shock, horror - it's admitted boys since 2009. A plethora of bursaries should mean no problems with the commission's public benefit test, and it has a motto the trio will no doubt observe in the upcoming case: Age quod agis - "whatever you do, do well".

* A tweet last week from Peter Wanless, chief executive of the Big Lottery fund: "Have just updated my Who's Who entry (as you do) and listed Twitter as my recreational interest." Is he getting out enough?

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