Third Sector at Large: Minister promoted by accident as the vultures gather

Big society, budget cuts and the Citizenship Survey are on our minds this week

- Justin Davis Smith, chief executive of Volunteering England, was presiding at the European Year of Volunteering reception at the House of Commons last week when he cheerfully introduced the Minister for Civil Society, Nick Hurd, as "minister of state". Hurd responded: "Thank you for the promotion, which is gratefully accepted." Do we detect the hint of a blush there? Hurd, as any fule kno, is a mere parliamentary under-secretary of state, otherwise known as a puss. His Labour predecessor in the job, Angela (now Baroness Smith), was indeed a minister of state, but then she was a Gordon Brown favourite from way back.

- As the Charity Commission lies wounded by budget cuts, sector bodies continue to suggest their various remedies. Last week we had the Institute of Fundraising calling for the regulator to start charging for its services (and hand some of the proceeds to the IoF). Now the Fundraising Standards Board is arguing that it should encourage charities to self-regulate more by joining, yes, the FRSB. No one's quite called for the commission's abolition yet, but the image of vultures on the fence does steal into the mind.

- A tweet emerges from Filippo Addarii, director of international leadership development at Acevo, while attending a Council of Europe meeting: "Hurrah - I'm amongst the youngest. Average age 65. It's like an NGO hospice." Now is that kind? His own chief executive is, after all, not far off 60.

- The nebulous nature of the big society has already sparked quite an industry, mostly devoted to trying to work out precisely what it is. But now there's a fresh twist: Anglia Ruskin University's Certificate of Higher Education in Charity and Social Enterprise Management is being sold as an important tool for those "who are being put under pressure to build the big society". It's more than likely that there will be a whole psychiatric wing devoted to the victims of this big idea before too long.

- Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, has decided to axe the Citizenship Survey. Reason? "Complex and expensive to run, current drive to deliver cost savings across government, blah blah ..." That is certainly a relief - for a moment we thought it might have something to do with the fact that the survey keeps producing the wrong figures - such as falling volunteering levels year on year.

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