Charity Commission publishes report on Garfield Weston Foundation investigation

(31st March 2010)

The Charity Commission, the independent regulator of charities in England and Wales, has today published a report on its investigation into the Garfield Weston Foundation (registered charity no. 230260).

The Garfield Weston Foundation is a grant-making charity with wide general charitable objects. It had an investment income of £38,508,000 in the financial year ending 5 April 2009. During the same period it made grants totalling £26,183,000.

The concerns which led to the opening of the investigation relate to political donations made by Wittington Investments Ltd (WIL), an investment company in which the charity held a controlling interest.

The Commission received information from an article in a charity sector publication in July 2009 that WIL had made donations to a UK political party between 1993 and 2005. The information raised concerns about whether the trustees of the charity had supported a political party by allowing a company in which the charity had a controlling interest to make donations to a political party. The investigation focused on the nature and extent of the duties of the charity’s trustees, as majority shareholders of WIL, in relation to that company’s decision to make political donations. The conclusions of the Commission’s investigation are set out in the regulatory compliance report published today.

The report also contains wider lessons for the sector concerning the fundamental principle that charities must remain independent from party politics and cannot give support to a political party. Where companies are required by legislation to seek and obtain shareholders’ consent before making political donations or political expenditure and a charity is a majority or significant shareholder in that company, its trustees cannot properly give consent if they know that some of that expenditure will be made to a political party.

The regulatory compliance report (RCR) on this investigation is published at www.charitycommission.gov.uk

Ends.

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PR 28/10

Notes to Editors

1.The Charity Commission is the independent regulator of charities in England and Wales. See www.charitycommission.gov.uk for further information or call our contact centre on 0845 300 0218.

2.Our mission is: to ensure charities’ legal compliance, enhance charities’ accountability, encourage charities’ effectiveness and impact and to promote the public interest in charity.

3.The Commission conducts two kinds of investigation cases. Most concerns are dealt with through non-statutory investigations called ‘regulatory compliance cases’. However, in cases of significant risk and more serious regulatory concern we may open a statutory inquiry under section 8 of the Charities Act 1993. The decision to open a statutory inquiry will be based on a number of factors, including evidence of serious suspicion of misconduct or mismanagement in the administration of the charity and/or risk to property. The criteria we use are set out in our Risk and Proportionality Framework for the Commission’s compliance work.

4.More information about the Charity Commission’s Compliance Division can be found in Charities Back on Track, a report on the themes and wider issues arising from the Commission’s compliance work.

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