National Citizen Service accused of "mismanagement and failure of leadership"
FEBRUARY 14, 2020
The National Citizen Service Trust is being sued by its largest provider, The Challenge, for at least £20m with claims it has breached contracts in seven regions.
The Challenge, which in August lost a contract believed to be worth more than £60m a year to deliver the youth scheme, has filed High Court documents against the National Citizen Service Trust for breach of contract in seven regions. It has also launched a separate claim of defamation.
The legal claims bring to a head a long-running and acrimonious dispute, which was laid bare in a letter from Bill Ronald, chair of The Challenge, to Nicky Morgan, the culture secretary, last week.
In the letter, Bill Ronald has accused the trust of "mismanagement and failure of leadership" and claimed it made defamatory comments about The Challenge in a press release and urged Nicky Morgan to intervene to prevent the collapse of The Challenge, which employs 430 staff.
He also stated that "The continued poor behaviour of the NCST’s leadership now not only endangers the future of The Challenge, but threatens its network of NCS delivery partners, a great number of which are small local charities across England. This behaviour runs counter to the NCST’s Royal Charter obligations to champion and protect NCS."
The letter noted that "urgent concerns regarding the mismanagement of the NCS programme by the trust" had already been raised with the DCMS back in July and listed seven new concerns about the NCS Trust including that it had not paid £4m of contractual payments, had withdrawn provisionally awarded future contracts worth £299m, "resulting in extensive redundancies", and had made "defamatory remarks scapegoating The Challenge and requiring legal action".
Ronald added: "This follows a catalogue of previous failure at the trust that has caused substantial damage to The Challenge and to the young people it supports, including (but by no means limited to) the implementation of an unfit-for-purpose IT system, which has resulted in over 10,000 young people missing out on NCS places, over £5.5m of wasted public money, and exposed young people to potentially life-threatening safety risks through a flawed medical assessment process."
The letter also referred to the "abrupt" resignation of Michael Lynas, chief executive of the trust, who announced last month that he would step down next year.
Oliver Lee, chief executive of The Challenge, issued a statement today saying: "The Challenge has for several months been engaged with the trust and DCMS to attempt to resolve serious issues arising from the mismanagement of certain aspects of the NCS programme by the trust in 2019."
Lee added that The Challenge "remains committed to delivering our remaining responsibilities on the NCS 2019 autumn programme and to supporting future NCS providers through a smooth handover process".
A trust spokeswoman said in a statement: "It is unfortunate The Challenge feels it needs to make these allegations in such a public way".
"We reject the allegations and we are challenging the legal claim."
She added: "NCS has recently recommissioned its providers and will be taking tens of thousands of young people on the programme next summer without The Challenge as a partner after we decided not to contract with it again."
You can read the letter in full here.