Cameron’s NCS Legacy Under Fire

David Cameron’s recent memoirs and media round has given him the opportunity to try and define his own legacy from the ashes of his forced departure in 2016; one of the most prominent examples he has been offering has been the National Citizenship Service, which he set up in 2011 as a taxpayer funded gap year provider for 15-17 year olds. Picture the IDF training programme but ziplining instead of national security…

However, it looks like the NCS itself may be on its last legs – mired in controversy, investigations, a swathe of examples of misspent public funds and providers pulling out. Cameron’s search for a successful legacy will have to re-open…

Cameron’s crony, Michael Lynas, had been leading the project since its inception – who insiders have said was never up to the job in the first place having no experience in leading such a project (taking up the reins after briefly working for Cameron in No. 10). Lynas officially announced his resignation in September without giving a reason. Seems suspicious, however Guido reckons he knows why…

Guido understands the NCS is currently subject to a handful of investigations, not least by DCMS – an investigation apparently being headed up David Knott at the direction of Nicky Morgan – looking into the trust’s leadership, in addition to that of the National Citizen Service Trust (which has previously been subject to NAO and PAC reports criticising financial control, governance and transparency). Did Lynas jump before he was pushed?…

Despite receiving around £180 million in public funds, Lynas has also previously refused to disclose his salary. However, his record on spending taxpayers money doesn’t give Guido reassurance, having previously moved the NCST offices from a £100,000-a-year shared space to a new swanky £1.1 million pad in Kensington; and spaffing around £10 million up the wall on a ‘brand refresh’ for the Trust.

Taking all this into account alongside the NCS’s largest provider pulling out a month ago, and it looks like Cameron’s project is on its last legs. Once the NCS goes the “Big Society” will be just a well-meaning idea that didn’t catch on…

UPDATE: A letter seen by Guido from the Chairman of The Challenge (recently the largest provider of the NCS programme until pulling out a month ago) to Nicky Morgan, in which he savages the behaviour of Lynas and others, that “gives the appearance of an organisation wilfully concealing its own failures by using The Challenge as a scapegoat”. 

Bill Ronald also accuses the NCST of “[exposing] young people to potentially life-threatening safety risks through a flawed medical assessment process”. Just last month, David Cameron – who remains the Chair of NCS Patrons – said Lynas could “be proud” of the work he’d done at the NCS…

Centre for Medical Cannabis Launched

Yesterday saw the official launch of the Centre for Medicinal Cannabis at an event held at the Academy of Medical Sciences. The centre brings together clinicians, pharmacists, patients, campaigners and policy experts. Technically medicinal cannabis has been legalised for prescription, but only in very tightly controlled circumstances…

Steve Moore, who was one of the policy gurus behind the Big Society, has put together a board of serious people from the medical research field and people who have been involved in the area from a patient focus. His team brings them in touch with people who know their way around politics and government.*

Backed by the philanthropist Paul Birch, the CMC has produced a credible model with 30 immediate policy recommendations for the development UK’s first medicinal cannabis regime. They have produced a report and 30 recommendations are both evidence-based and politically deliverable, as they seek to influence the design of new regulatory system.

The CMC argues that

“… the UK needs a system that strikes the proper balance between choice and safety, whilst allowing for future changes as lessons are learnt. As such, our report covers the fundamental policy choices that are necessary when devising an access regime and the trade-offs policy-makers and legislators must make. It explores the particular constraints and preferences that will influence what regime is workable in the UK. This includes healthcare culture, public attitudes and medical options – cannabis based medical products (CBMP) definitions, access routes; modes of consumption; applicable conditions, etc.

The CMC’s report is informed by contributions from patient groups, and others, who will determine the outcomes that any new system must deliver against. The report also draws lessons from other jurisdictions, and engages with clinicians and others, to define what types of medical access are in demand, in order to propose a model that suits the UK context.”

Download the “Blueprint” report.

*Our editor is on the advisory board.

Cam Uses Big Government to Force Through Big Society

Dave’s Big Society redux will force firms to give their employees three extra days paid leave to do “volunteer work” to help “strengthen communities”. Which somewhat fails to grasp the definition of the word “volunteer”, someone who offers to do something for free. Business is less than impressed with what is effectively a compulsory extention of annual leave. The Institute of Directors warns:

“Passing a law to compel firms to pay their staff to volunteer for charity is hardly in keeping with the spirit of philanthropy. Businesses should support their staff if they want to volunteer, but the architects of this idea cannot pretend that forcing firms to give an additional three days of paid leave will do anything other than add costs. Time off for charity work and volunteering is a matter for managers and employees to discuss between themselves, not a target for heavy-handed government intervention.”

There’s a bit of a can’t win feel to all this. When the Tory campaign apparently ‘goes negative’, the media call it over the top, when it goes positive it’s wishy-washy statist interventionism. Though if Miliband had tried to force this through on the same day as further nationalisation of the railways, Fallon would be calling him a communist…

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