Government in contact with Victoria and Albert Museum over allegations against trustees

The Mail on Sunday newspaper claimed the charity’s chair had offered a private tour of the museum as prize in an auction to raise funds for the Conservative Party

V&A museum (Photograph: Tristan Fewings/Getty Images)
V&A museum (Photograph: Tristan Fewings/Getty Images)

The government has spoken to the Victoria and Albert Museum about allegations made against its trustees, the charity has confirmed.

The Mail on Sunday newspaper reported over the weekend that Nicholas Coleridge, the chair of trustees at the V&A, offered a private tour of the museum as a prize in an auction to raise funds for the Conservative Party.

Another V&A trustee, Ben Elliot, is a fundraiser for the Conservative Party and the party’s co-chair.

Trustees have a duty to ensure their personal interests are separated from the resources of their charity.

The government’s online guidance says trustees must “avoid putting yourself in a position where your duty to your charity conflicts with your personal interests or loyalty to any other person or body” and must “make sure the charity’s assets are only used to support or carry out its purposes”.

Asked whether the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport had contacted the V&A after the Mail’s story was published, a spokesperson for the charity said it had “spoken on this issue” with the department.

The V&A is an exempt charity, meaning that, unlike registered charities, the DCMS has a significant role in deciding whether to investigate any concerns about its work.

The government takes the lead on identifying any potential breaches of charity law and the Charity Commission must “consult” government officials if it wants to take regulatory action, according to an agreement between the regulator and DCMS.

Neither the DCMS nor the Charity Commission would say whether any action would be taken in this case.

The V&A received £79m in government funding last year, including a one-off £7m grant to help the museum during the Covid-19 lockdowns, its latest annual accounts show.

A spokesperson for the charity said: “The V&A understands that a short tour of the museum with Nicholas Coleridge was offered at auction at the Spring Lunch.

“No V&A staff or resources were involved and no special access to the museum was offered.

“We understand that neither Ben Elliot nor Nicholas Coleridge attended the event.”

Asked whether the charity had been contacted by the regulator or government officials, the spokesperson added: “We have not received any correspondence from the Charity Commission.

“We are in constant communication with the DCMS as our sponsor department so naturally we have spoken on this issue.”

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