Newsmaker: Jupp leads - Ben Jupp, Director, Active Communities Directorate, Home Office

Stephen Cook

- 'Whitehall is getting better at promoting the voluntary sector'.

Think of the civil service and you might think of dedication, decent pensions or the wiles of Sir Humphrey in Yes Minister. And passion? Well, possibly not.

But there's passion aplenty in the Active Communities Directorate, according to its new director, Ben Jupp. "People who work here are as passionate about the agenda they pursue as those on the front line," he says.

"Someone who came in recently from a homelessness charity said what amazed him was to find the commitment there was. There's a perception that we're pen pushers focusing on the obstacles, but that's a million miles away from why I'm here. Celebrating the passion people have is important."

Jupp's own passion is of the low-key variety. He tends to lean back in his chair and think before he speaks - perhaps a legacy of earlier years in think tanks and policy departments.

It's a change of style from his predecessor, Jitinder Kohli, who was both a fast talker and a fast mover - he spent just over a year in the directorate before moving on.

Jupp says Kohli introduced a new outward-facing culture in the directorate and got important initiatives under way - more strategic funding of sector organisations, putting the ChangeUp programme on a long-term footing, laying the foundation for Capacity Builders and taking over the 'giving agenda' from the Treasury.

The consequence, says Jupp, is that his main role now is ensuring the delivery of things in the pipeline. This includes setting up the body to implement the recommendations of the Russell Commission on youth volunteering and ensuring increased delivery of public services by the sector.

"The target for that is what I will be judged on," he says. "A significant increase is a 5 per cent increase, and ministers' aspirations are to go much higher than that."

Then there's the setting up of the 'arm's-length' bodies, starting with Capacity Builders in April. Adverts will be placed soon for the Compact Commissioner, who will be charged with ensuring the sector gets a fair deal in public contracts. Jupp is in favour of giving such tasks to arm's-length organisations that can hire people with specific skills - his directorate then maintains the strategic overview and is the 'repository of expertise'.

Jupp will also work on the 30 per cent staffing cuts his and other sections in the Home Office have to meet by this time next year, with some possibly transferring to the arm's-length bodies. Then there's the next government spending round from 2008 to 2011.

"That work will be starting in earnest in the next few months," he says.

"My job is partly to make sure we are asking 'have we got the right targets, focus and programmes for the next spending review?' We did some consultation with stakeholders on our main programmes before, and I would like to go further."

Jupp admits he's working in an area where it can be difficult to get things done because so much relies on partnership between the sector and government, local government and other stakeholders, especially business.

But in government, he says, co-operation is increasing, and the Department of Health's new taskforce to foster service delivery by the sector is showing the way.

"There are a lot of ministers across different departments who have experience of the voluntary and community sector, and that is reflected in the priorities of officials," he adds.

The important thing, Jupp says, is not to lose sight of "the really big objective - that we can get more people participating in society in a way that is good for them and good for society".

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