Charity planning a Margaret Thatcher Centre pledges action over newspaper article

The newspaper claims that the Cherish Freedom Trust has spent much of its money on encouraging young people to support right-wing views

Charity plans a Thatcher centre
Charity plans a Thatcher centre

The charity behind a plan to create a centre celebrating the life of the late Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher has said it will take action over a national newspaper story raising questions about its work.

The Times ran a story today claiming that the Cherish Freedom Trust had spent much of its funds, collected to create the Margaret Thatcher Centre, encouraging young people to support right-wing beliefs.

The newspaper claimed that Conor Burns, the Conservative MP for Bournemouth West, who is a trustee of the charity, was "under investigation" by the Charity Commission.

It said that after a public appeal in the UK for money to buy Thatcher’s outfits, Burns and another trustee bid at a Christie’s auction to buy them for a private collector, raising questions about a possible conflict of interest.

The charity today issued a statement saying the article was "misleading, in many respects factually incorrect and in other respects simply untrue".

It said it would be "taking action to correct the record from this discreditable journalism".

The statement did not spell out what the inaccuracies in the article were.

The charity’s statement said that it had not been contacted by the Charity Commission with any concerns.

A spokeswoman for the commission said concerns about the charity had been raised with it.

"We are currently assessing information relating to the charity and the trustees’ legal duties and responsibilities to protect the charity’s independence and manage any conflicts of interest," she said.

"If we identify serious regulatory issues, we will take the matter forward."

Burns is listed on the Charity Commission’s website as one of two trustees of the Cherish Freedom Trust, with the other being a company called Cherish Freedom, of which Burns is one of two active directors listed on the Companies House website.

The charity had an income of £24,979 in 2017, slightly too low for it to be required to file full accounts with the commission.

Its accounts for 2016 show that more than half of its £112,728 income was spent on consultants.

Burns complained to the Charity Commission in 2014 about a tweet from Oxfam criticising the government’s austerity measures.

The regulator subsequently concluded that although the charity had no intention to act in a party political way, it should have "done more to avoid any misperception of political bias".

The idea to build the proposed Margaret Thatcher Centre was inspired in 2009 by a visit the charity’s founders made to the the Reagan Ranch Center and the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in California, which celebrate the life of the former US president.

The Cherish Freedom Trust was registered with the commission in July 2014.

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