Trustees warned after mining case

The Charity Commission has barred 10 people from acting as trustees for life and warned charities not to give trustees the 'inside track' on job opportunities and other benefits after an investigation into the operations of a Durham miners' charity.

During a six-year investigation into the Durham Mining Convalescent Homes Fund, the commission found that the charity – created to provide convalescent care for coal miners – spent almost 80 per cent of its funds on non-charitable activities, including nearly £400,000 on unauthorised benefits such as entertainment.

The charity, which collected £1.3m in donations from miners, shared an office with the National Union of Miners in Redhill, Durham. According to the commission’s report, the charity of effectively subsidised the union, spending only 21 per cent of its income on charitable activities.

At one point, three trustees resigned from the board and were immediately employed by the charity.

The union has since repaid £267,000 and all the trustees have been barred from acting as trustees for life. The commission says the trustees have escaped court action only because there is no realistic prospect of enforcing judgement.

As a result of the investigation, a total of almost £400,000 has been recovered from the charity’s coffers and passed to the Coal Industry Social Welfare Organisation to fund social care for miners in the north east.

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