Shortly after leaving parliament David Cameron took a job with a charity. Except he didn’t.
Various sources, including a specialist civil society website and the
Sun newspaper, reported that the former prime minister would be helping the charity that runs the National Citizen Service.
But the NCS Trust is not a charity. It is a non-profit social enterprise—technically, a community interest company.
CICs are more lightly regulated than charities. They are not overseen by the Charity Commission. They are not managed and run, as charities are, by a board of trustees or directors who receive no financial gain.
The NCS Trust executive directors are paid, just like directors in a commercial company. In 2015, the five directors were paid nearly £500,000 between them. The highest paid, presumably US-born social entrepreneur, Stephen Greene, received £124,163.
Nor does the NCS Trust have charitable objectives as traditional charities do. The Trust’s stated objectives are about keeping itself going—growing the NCS programme, maintaining its quality and reducing the unit cost of the programme.
The unit cost of the programme is high. Nearly 77,000 16 and 17 year olds took part last year. With turnover for the year of £117m., that’s a cost of over £1,500 per young person.
The underfunded youth work sector, which provides high-quality informal education at local level, looks enviously at such lavish funding. Cuts to its own programmes are wiping out the service in some areas.
Until 2013 the cabinet office ran the National Citizen Service programme itself. Now it pays the NCS Trust to do it. An appointee from the cabinet office sits as non-executive director. This makes it look like a quango, an arms-length body funded but not run by government.
Which leaves the question—what is David Cameron doing? By his own account, he’s becoming chair of NCS Patrons, “bringing together a senior cross-party and cross-sector group of patrons and ambassadors who can help NCS to reach more youngsters”.
Sounds like a public relations job, with a bit of lobbying. The lobbying comes because NCS Trust is on the way to being given a statutory function, and being granted a royal charter.
So an accurate description might be, “David Cameron takes first job after leaving parliament doing PR for well-funded regional quango”.