Kids company

Kids Company faces the music

It was surreal to sit in the Donmar Warehouse and watch Committee, a musical based on the investigation into the charity Kids Company. The first oddity was that anyone ever thought to write a musical based on the transcript of a Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee. The second, that this production wouldn’t have existed if The Spectator hadn’t published an article (by me) raising questions about Kids Company’s appallingly managed finances and the behaviour of its chief executive, Camila Batmanghelidjh. It’s strange that Camila has come to this. In February 2015, it was considered sacrilege to utter a word against her. She was the untouchable friend of the BBC, banks,

The Spectator’s Kids Company exposé named Scoop of the Year

It’s a red-letter day here at 22 Old Queen St: Miles Goslett’s exposé of Kids Company has just been named Scoop of the Year. The awards, by the London Press Club, differ from the others in that you can’t nominate and you can’t pay to enter: the shortlist is drawn by a distinguished judging panel. It’s a huge credit to Miles that he won, and an even bigger compliment considering who he beat: the Sunday Times’ Insight investigation into athletics doping, the Sun’s exposé of Lord Sewel’s cocaine habit, and the Daily Mirror’s scoop about how the diamond heist thieves got away with it. For a tiny magazine to beat competition from the

The Kids Company cure for ‘dangerous people’? A trip to Champneys

After MPs claimed last month that the Kids Company’s closure was down to a ‘catalogue of failures’, the charity’s founder Camila Batmanghelidjh appeared on Woman’s Hour in an attempt to defend her honour. Alas things soon took a turn for the worse when she was asked why Kids Company had used charity money to send a youngster in their care to Champneys spa. The luxury spa chain is popular with a host of celebrities from Cherie Blair to Kylie Minogue. Defending the decision, Batmanghelidjh said the luxury spa was the only option open to them after an NHS hospital wouldn’t take the child in question: ‘This individual ended up in that spa because he was

BBC1’s Kids Company ‘expose’ was nothing of the sort

To her supporters, Camila Batmanghelidjh is a deeply caring woman whose charity Kids Company was cruelly extinguished last summer thanks to unfair press speculation about its finances which later turned into a fully-blown media witch-hunt. To those of us who know our way around the Kids Company story, Camila Batmanghelidjh is certainly deeply caring, but the person she appears to care most deeply about is herself. Exhibit A: Lynn Alleway’s fly-on-the-wall film (‘Camila’s Kids Company: the Inside Story’) broadcast on BBC1 last night. In it, Batmanghelidjh didn’t bother to mask her love for the camera. She lapped up the attention Alleway showed her, never happier than when providing a running

Newsnight deserves an award for its superb follow-up to the Spectator’s scoop

It’s great to see Newsnight once again nominated for an award for its coverage of the Kids Company scandal, and I hope that it wins this time. When Miles Goslett broke the story in The Spectator in February last year, he had all of the details: the full horror of Camila Batmanghelidjh and her bizarre modus operandi, her dodgy finances and – crucially – how No10 overrode concerns from civil servants who had wanted to pull the plug on the venture. The story was there, on a plate: Miles Goslett had written the scoop of the year. He and Mary Wakefield, our commissioning editor, made sure it was bombproof – she

Kids Company: How the Spectator first blew the whistle

A year ago, The Spectator blew the top off the Kids Company scandal – it was to take Fleet Street months to catch up. Here’s Miles Goslett’s original article, revealing not just the chaos within the charity but how civil servants wanted to stop charity boss Camila Batmanghelidjh’s funding but were overruled by 10 Downing Street. In 2006, when David Cameron was leader of the opposition, he made an infamous speech that is remembered as an exhortation to hug a hoodie. Feral youth, he said, should be helped rather than demonised. He was reaching towards what he hoped would be a new, ‘compassionate’ conservatism inspired in part by the charismatic

Letters | 14 January 2016

Borderline case Sir: Alex Massie (‘The painful truth for Ruth’, 9 January) correctly identifies the challenges facing the Scottish Conservatives. But he is wrong to say it will ‘never’ be the moment for a Tory revival. Tax devolution is a game-changer. For the first time in years, the Conservative party gets to fight a Scottish battle on its strengths of economic competence; meanwhile, the SNP finally gets to demonstrate how to eliminate austerity and raise public spending — all without raising taxes. (In a low oil-price environment.) Toxic Tories? Not half as toxic as Labour are now. Post-referendum, voter positions are deeply entrenched and a party that can’t even agree on

Letters | 7 January 2016

A tax on empty dwellings Sir: Both the Conservative and Labour candidates (‘Battle for London’, 2 January) rightly see housing as the big issue in London’s mayoral election this year: Ukip and the Greens would probably say the same. But if one travels along the river at night and observes the large blocks of flats that appear to be almost empty, one wonders if there really is a problem. Anecdotal evidence says that the owners are mostly Chinese (but they could be Arabs, Russians, or others based abroad), who occupy these properties for little more than a week or a month in the year. We who live in London all

How to spot a charity snake

How do we judge a charity? Very badly, it turns out. Until The Spectator revealed the full horror of Kids Company in July, not even the press had asked hard questions of the charity or its founder, Camila Batmanghelidjh. The subsequent political scrutiny showed our democratic process at its best. When Paul Flynn, a veteran Labour MP, told Batmanghelidjh at an electrifying House of Commons hearing to stop talking ‘psychobabble’ he stripped away in an instant the glitz that had allowed one small charity whose sole qualification was the charisma of its leader to fritter away £48 million of taxpayers’ money. ‘We do not live on the moon,’ Flynn told

The trouble with Kids Company | 29 December 2015

We continue our rundown of the top 10 most-read Spectator articles of 2015: No7 is Miles Goslett’s exposé of Kids Company, published in February. As Goslett related six months later, this was the first piece to break the taboo on criticising the charity – and had it all. The questionable finances, the way civil servants were nervous about continuing funding but were overruled by No10. Only newspaper awards recognise ‘scoop of the year’ and we’re a magazine so we don’t qualify. But this, surely, was the scoop of 2015. In 2006, when David Cameron was leader of the opposition, he made an infamous speech that is remembered as an exhortation to hug a hoodie.

Portrait of the year | 10 December 2015

January David Cameron, the Prime Minister, said that only electing the Conservatives could ‘save Britain’s economic recovery’. Labour unveiled a poster saying: ‘The Tories want to cut spending on public services back to the levels of the 1930s,’ and Ed Miliband, the party leader, said he would ‘weaponise the NHS’. Two male ‘hedge witches’ were wed under the equal marriage law in a pagan ceremony in Edinburgh. Alexis Tsipras became prime minister of Greece, heading a Syriza coalition. In Paris, gunmen murdered 17 people, 11 at Charlie Hebdo, the magazine that had published cartoons of Mohammed. The price of Brent crude oil dipped below $50 a barrel, down from $107

Alan Yentob’s ‘resignation’ only makes him less accountable

The BBC’s spin doctors will be broadly happy at the coverage Alan Yentob’s ‘resignation’ as BBC Creative Director has generated, but licence fee payers should not be so pleased. For, on closer inspection, the whole thing is a gigantic swizz. Yentob may have relinquished his £183,000 salary, and his executive status, but it is now obvious that he will remain a very well paid fixture at the BBC for some time yet – and an even less accountable one. Firstly, it is important to note that as the Daily Telegraph reported today, by standing down from this job, Yentob escaped an internal BBC inquiry into allegations that he interfered with BBC News’s

Alan Yentob steps down as BBC creative director (but keeps his £150,000 TV gig)

Alan Yentob has dramatically quit his £183,300 per year creative director role at the BBC. Today’s decision comes after Yentob became the subject of intense scrutiny in recent months regarding the BBC’s coverage of the Kids Company scandal. In a statement, Yentob – who was the chairman of Kids Company – explains his decision to leave, citing the Kids Company scandal — which The Spectator were the first to cast light on — as a contributing factor: ‘The BBC is going through particularly challenging times and I have come to believe that the speculation about Kids Company and the media coverage revolving around my role is proving a serious distraction.’ However, it’s not all

Camila Batmanghelidjh comes to the government’s aid

Since Mr S’s colleague Miles Goslett blew the whistle on Kids Company – and its founder Camila Batmanghelidjh — in The Spectator earlier this year, the charity has been closed down and Batmanghelidjh has been summoned to a select committee hearing. With Batmanghelidjh’s former cheerleader David Cameron now doing his best to distance himself from the disgraced charity chief — after his ministers were accused of brushing aside civil servants’ concerns about Kids Company’s finances, could she still have one cabinet minister on side? Mr S only asks after an email popped into his inbox this morning from 6 Hillgrove PR saying that Batmanghelidjh was helping to inspire children as part of an

Questions unanswered over No.10 special treatment for Kids Company

Did Kids Company receive preferential treatment and funds because it was the ‘favoured’ charity of the Prime Minister? This was the key question put to two senior civil servants at the Public Accounts select committee this afternoon — and naturally, their answers were evasive. Richard Heaton, formerly the permanent secretary at the Cabinet Office, said ‘I was aware it was prime minister’s favoured charity’ but there was no smoking gun that it received any ‘special treatment’ — Heaton said he ‘didn’t see anything unusual in the correspondence’ — although the definition of what counted as special treatment was pulled apart throughout. It remains to be seen how this preference was known.

Kids Company given an ‘unbelievable’ £46 million in taxpayers’ money, despite repeated warnings

The Kids Company web of intrigue is slowly being untangled. A report from the National Audit Office reveals that despite repeated warnings from civil servants, £46 million was given to the charity over 15 years – from the Department for Education, local councils and lottery funds. It appears there was little auditing of where these funds were being used, instead relying on Kids Company’s self assessments. The money used to prop up the charity had an impact elsewhere: in 2008, it received 20 per cent of all the grant funding available from the DfE – leaving the rest to be split among 42 other charities. And in 2011, Kids Company received more

The clock that stopped: the victory of nuclear arms and defeat of nuclear power

‘I visited the black marble obelisk which marks the epicentre of the explosion, and I saw the plain domestic wall-clock retrieved intact from the rubble with its bent hands recording the precise time of day when the city was obliterated: 11.02 a.m. I was glad to be alone, because I could not have spoken.’ Published here 20 years ago, that was my memory of Nagasaki, the target on 9 August 1945 of the second and last nuclear weapon ever deployed. The subsequent seven decades of non-use of nuclear arms — deterred by that most chilling of threats, ‘mutually assured destruction’ — is one of the miracles of modern history, given the

The perfect storm: a right-on charity run by a right-on woman and a right-on BBC executive

The BBC’s Creative Director, Alan Yentob, seems to have spent the last week or so dashing from studio to studio in an attempt to influence the corporation’s broadcasters from saying nasty stuff about a charity of which he was, until it imploded, chairman. The incompetently-managed Kids Company is now mercifully defunct. Yentob has subsequently admitted to having contacted Newsnight before the programme broadcast an investigation into the charity. He also harangued BBC correspondent Lucy Manning and stood in the cubicle watching as Today attempted to cover the story. If anyone else in the BBC had demonstrated such a magnificently brazen conflict of interest, they’d be out. But as a former

David Cameron defends giving £3 million to Kids Company

Kids Company staff and service users have been protesting outside Downing Street today after the charity announced it was closing its doors. But the Prime Minister isn’t there: he’s on holiday. He did, however, give this clip to broadcasters in which he defended his ministers’ decision to overrule officials’ concerns and give the struggling charity a further £3 million: ‘Well, the government thought it was the right thing to do, to give this charity one last chance of restructuring to try to make sure it could continue its excellent work. Sadly that didn’t happen, not least because of the allegations that were made and private donors withdrawing their money, but

Portrait of the week | 6 August 2015

Home Tom Hayes, aged 35, a former City trader who rigged the Libor rates daily for nearly four years while working in Tokyo for UBS, then Citigroup, from 2006 until 2010, was jailed by Southwark Crown Court for 14 years for conspiracy to defraud. The government sold a 5.4 per cent stake in Royal Bank of Scotland, for 330p a share, against the 500p or so that it paid six or seven years ago to save the banking group; the government now owns 73 per cent of RBS. Monitor, the regulator for health services in England, sent out letters ‘challenging the plans of the 46 foundation trusts with the biggest