Regulator received just three complaints about National Trust slavery links report

Critics had claimed the charity was facing a members' revolt over the document, which set out connections between 93 of its properties to historic slavery

Heelis, the National Trust's headquarters in Swindon, Wiltshire
Heelis, the National Trust's headquarters in Swindon, Wiltshire

Just three complaints have been made to the regulator about the National Trust’s work and purpose since it published a report researching its properties’ links to slavery.

The report, published in September, showed connections between 93 of its historic places and colonialism and historic slavery.

It sparked fierce debate on social media about the charity’s work, and some publications speculated that it could lead to a “members revolt”.

Third Sector used freedom of information legislation to ask the Charity Commission to confirm how many complaints it had received about the work or purpose of the National Trust between 1 August and 20 October. 

The regulator said it had found just three such complaints.

In its written response to the request, the commission noted that it was “not solely reliant on complaints in assessing regulatory concerns about a charity”.

It later pointed to the regulatory and risk framework on its website that identifies a number of sources that include serious incident reports from trustees, reporting by auditors and independent examiners, and concerns raised in the media and by members of parliament.

Some charity professionals criticised commission chair Baroness Stowell in October, after she appeared to suggest in an interview with The Daily Telegraph that the charity could face an inquiry into its purpose.

The commission was forced to confirm that there was no formal inquiry or any finding of wrongdoing against the charity.

Twenty Conservative MPs and peers from the Common Sense parliamentary group then wrote a letter to the newspaper.

They said: “Part of our mission is to ensure that institutional custodians of history and heritage, tasked with safeguarding and celebrating British values, are not coloured by cultural Marxist dogma, colloquially known as the ‘woke agenda’.”

The letter was followed by a debate in parliament earlier this month where the government rejected calls for a review into the National Trust after MPs criticised the charity for what one described as a “dramatic change in direction”.

In addition to the three complaints made to the commission, the National Trust said it had received 771 complaints from a total of 5.6 million members.

A National Trust spokesperson said: "The number of complaints we received represents 0.01 per cent of our total members. We recognise that with such a large membership comes a wide variety of opinions, and we always encourage our members to share their views with us.”

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