The National Portrait Gallery restaurant was packed for CABE's fifth anniversary party, where Stuart Lipton made his farewell address following his departure from the post this summer. 'I've been waiting a long time for this, ' was the opening shot of his speech, which was typically upbeat about achievements and future prospects. His only reference to politics was his hope that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) would continue to give the same level of support that CABE was enjoying from John Prescott's department;
DCMS minister Lord Macintosh looked on impassively. Other than that, there was praise for all the support he had received, and some observations on successes and one significant failure to date:
the creation of better hospitals through PFI. He had a swipe at accountancy-culture mentality - 'when St James's Square was laid out, do you think there were auditors at hand to work out the net present value of the birdsong and the opportunity cost of the space given over to trees?' - and he was robust about the balance of the 16 CABE commissioners, criticised as not being weighted enough towards the public sector in its recent audit report. 'I believe we got the selection process right, ' he declared. 'How do you build a meaningful organisation at great speed without using industry experts who inevitably know each other? Corporates regularly bring in people they know to their boards, and government has a habit of bringing in its friends too' - an obvious reference to Peter Mandelson and Alan Milburn, which got a good laugh. CABE's new chief executive, Richard Simmons, spoke briefly and well about his new challenge;
interestingly, he has seen the value of CABE as a consumer of its advice when he headed Medway's regeneration programme; happily, he liked what he saw.