Thursday, February 4, 2016

Bad Company

The BBC1 documentary on the last days of Kids Company was light on facts. We did glean that the monthly wage bill, at the end, was £500k. If that was standard, staff costs were running at £6m a year. Of the 650 employees, some on screen were committed, qualified and impressive; what's not clear is how many were given jobs as an act of charity. The Trustee's plan had been to make 450 redundant, subverted by Camila Batmanghelidjh in an act of what seemed typical irresponsibility. Restructuring funds were instead driven to South London in brown envelopes and food vouchers, at a standard rate of around £10,000 a week, over half a million a year. The clientele seemed local, arriving on foot or by bike; there wasn't much evidence of a wider outreach.

At the top level of the charity, in loaned office space in the City, we saw a floor of administrative staff - and a lady who came in to paint wooden boxes for the CEO-who-wouldn't-stand-aside. And learned that Camila's running costs were quite high - with the services of a company employee as driver when required, up £40k a year in additional taxi bookings, the occasional use of a house with pool at £5k a month, and the ability to direct charitable funds to people she personally assessed as needy - whether or not state support was available - in quite lavish ways.

It seemed painfully obviously that the whole venture, while in some ways admirable, was never, ever sustainable; would you allow the Chair of Trustees of such an operation to, say, chair BBC Films ?

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