Stoker: 'My role is to help people, not to kick them'

Building up networks and contacts behind the scenes will be top of John Stoker's 'to do' list when he takes up office as the first Compact Commissioner on 1 October, he told Third Sector in his first interview since his appointment.

"I'll be wanting to put myself around a bit," he said. This will mean meeting with relevant ministers, civil servants and voluntary sector bodies, which, Stoker said, are all keen to improve the relationships governed by the Compact .

The former chief charity commissioner believes his wide experience in the public sector and time spent as chief executive of the London Bombings Relief Charitable Fund will assist him in this role.

"I want to pay particular attention to the areas where I've got no personal background so far," he added. This includes the NHS and the Department of Health, which is notorious for its breach of the Compact in relation to Section 64 grants, although he refused to be drawn on whether the department would be at the top of his priority list.

Stoker will work alongside a chief executive at the Office of the Compact Commissioner. He remained tight-lipped about who would take up the post and when she or he would be appointed, but he hinted that it would be soon. "I'm certainly not going to be going it alone for months," he said.

He emphasised that he was keen to make progress as soon as he starts his new role. "I hope that we can get some specific work going early on, on some of the big and obvious areas," he said.

The financial relationship between government and the sector is the first area Stoker has earmarked. He also thinks the question of how the sector maintains independence while delivering public services needs some work.

With no real powers, however, why does he think he will succeed when many others have tried and still not managed to make the Compact work in the eight years since its launch?

"This post comes with the full backing of the Government," Stoker responded.

And he added that his role would be about "helping people, not kicking them".

- See News Analysis, page 10, and Editorial, page 22

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