Inquiry opened into trustee benefits at independent school charities

An inquiry has been opened into two independent school charities after concerns were raised about conflicts of interest, protecting assets and “potential unauthorised trustee benefits”.

The Charity Commission has begun a class statutory inquiry into The Martin Foundation and The Collegiate Charitable Foundation, which provide bursaries for pupils and advertising, facilities and equipment for schools.

The Collegiate Charitable Foundation supports Queen Ethelburga’s Collegiate, which is made up of four boarding schools and a nursery in Yorkshire and charges top fees of over £38,600. The Martin Foundation is not currently linked to any school or carrying out any charitable activities.

The Charity Commission said it had identified “clear and ongoing serious regulatory issues relating to the administration of the charities by the trustees” after receiving a complaint from the a member of the public and information from other regulators.

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

The inquiry will examine the extent to which potential conflicts of interest and connected party transactions have been properly managed, the extent to which there have been any unauthorised trustee benefits and whether the charities operated for exclusively charitable purposes. The Commission will publish a report with its findings once the investigation is complete.

The Commission’s inquiry was opened on January 22 but was announced today, alongside an announcement that two joint interim managers were appointed to the charities to take over all powers and duties from the trustees on August 13.

The Commission said the interim managers, Geoff Carton-Kelly and Tom McLennan of business advisory firm FRP Advisory, were appointed “due to the seriousness of its regulatory concerns” and will act “to the exclusion of the current charity trustees”.

The charities both have the same chair of trustees and both have the same address in York listed as their public address.

Queen Ethelburga’s Collegiate was contacted for comment.

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