Private schools charities say regulator has acted 'disproportionately'

Trustees of the Martin Foundation and the Collegiate Charitable Foundation say they are disappointed by the decision to appoint interim managers to both organisations

Queen Ethelburga’s College near York, where the charities are based (Photograph: Joeanthony00/Wikimedia Commons)
Queen Ethelburga’s College near York, where the charities are based (Photograph: Joeanthony00/Wikimedia Commons)

Trustees of two independent schools charities that are being investigated by the Charity Commission have accused the regulator of acting "disproportionately" and without regard to the potential reputational damage to them.

Trustees for the Martin Foundation and the Collegiate Charitable Foundation, which share the same address and a trustee, issued the statement after they became the subject of a Charity Commission statutory inquiry.

Earlier this month, the commission appointed interim managers to the two charities, which provide bursaries for young people to attend independent schools, after identifying "clear and ongoing serious regulatory issues" in the charities’ administration.

These included issues with the management of conflicts of interest at the charities, protecting and properly accounting for the charities’ assets and potential unauthorised trustee benefit.

The commission said its inquiry would focus on the allegations about unauthorised trustee benefit and whether connected-party transactions had been properly managed, as well as whether the charities had been operated for exclusively charitable purposes.

A statement from the charities’ trustees said they were "surprised and disappointed" by the regulator’s actions.

"The commission appears to have acted disproportionately and without regard to the reputational damage which may be caused by their action or the possibility of working cooperatively with the trustees," the statement said.

"The trustees have always dealt openly and constructively with inquiries from the Charity Commission and would hope to continue to engage in this way going forward."

The trustees said that all of the charities’ expenditure was "directly in pursuit and accordance with" their charitable objectives.

The statement concluded: "The trustees are confident that both charities operate appropriately and remain willing and ready to address concerns raised by the Charity Commission."

According to the Charity Commission’s website, the Collegiate Charitable Foundation had an income of almost £18.8m and spent more than £18.7m in the year to 31 August 2017.

The Martin Foundation, which according to the commission is not currently carrying out any activity, had income and expenditure of zero in the year to 31 August 2017, the regulator’s website shows.

Its income was approximately £6.3m and it spent almost £7.2m in the previous year, the regulator’s website says.

A spokeswoman for the regulator said it would not comment further on an ongoing inquiry.

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