Little at Large: Dame Suzi takes a weight off the minds of troubled MPs

Tony Wright MP, chairman of the Public Administration Select Committee, was in candid mood during the annual Charity Commission interrogation in Parliament last week: he revealed that he is the patron of a charity that is being investigated by the police.

Fellow committee member Kelvin Hopkins then added that MPs were flattered by the number of invitations they received from charities to become patrons, but worried about the legal responsibilities. There aren't any, explained Dame Suzi Leather, chair of the commission. "Great - I'm in the clear then!" Wright chirruped, his face brightening.

 Leather also quipped at the PASC hearing that maybe charities could take over the banks as the economy collapses and stock markets hurtle lemming-like over the financial abyss.

Wise words spoken in jest? Sector banks such as Triodos and Charity Bank are increasingly looking like oases of stability as household names melt before our eyes. Some have mused that the financial crisis could be the making of the social economy. Indeed. If a few hundred thousand depositors desert the big banks and put their savings in Charity Bank, we could take over.

- James Purnell, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, has become the first government minister to admit that we are heading into a recession. Contingency plans for mass unemployment were being put in place, he said.

It now seems a long time ago that charities were protesting that they were being shut out of Pathways to Work contracts to get the long-term unemployed into work. As dole queues lengthen, those 'payment by results' contracts may come to resemble millstones more than opportunities. Be careful what you wish for.

Mathew Little is a freelance writer

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