Marcela Trust 2017: where's the charity spending?

In my vast fields of free time, dear reader, I scour the accounts of the Marcela Trust so that you don't have to. The accounts for 2017 make interesting reading.

Long story short, the Marcela Trust is steadily burning through the money from OMC Investments, which in turn came from the wind-up of Nissan UK. As of the start of their 2016-2017 financial year they had £86 million; after a bunch of losses on the property market they were left with £81 million at the end of the year. This doesn't seem like a wonderful record for the year for their five trustees:

  • Jeanette Franklin MBE (of the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre, MBE for fundraising for them)
  • Dawn Pamela Rose (Marcela Trust stalwart)
  • Brian Arthur Groves (Marcela Trust stalwart)
  • Mark Robert Spragg (Marcela Trust stalwart)
  • Paul Hotham (conservationist, also of Flora and Fauna International which has graced these pages in years past)
and yet the indications are that the trustee remuneration wasn't that much reduced from 2016 accounts. Dawn Rose trousered about £200K in total compensation (down from £270K last year) and Brian Groves got £80K rather than £100K last year. We don't know directly about a couple of the other trustees as they are paid out of a subsidiary company, but the pattern we can see is about a 20% payment reduction from 2016.

Now, the natural temptation is to ask the trustees how they can justify their salaries based on a £5 million loss over the year, but that's not fair - the value of investments can go down as well as up. We should evaluate them on how they manage the charity's spending on charitable causes - after all, that's what a charity is all about. And the accounts note specifically that the trustees do not actively fund-raise - although why they recruited someone with an MBE for fund-raising as a trustee is a bit of a mystery.

The Marcela Trust charity spent a bit over £12K on charitable activities in 2017. Last year it spent £4.8 million - but then, it got £4.75 million in donations.

One is left (per William of Ockham) with the hypothesis that the Marcela Trust trustees view their job as spending the minimum of money on charitable causes that they have to, while personally benefiting from the slowly diminishing OMC assets. I certainly don't know how they can look at this year's figures with a straight face and claim that they should be paid anything beyond a nugatory amount for their efforts.

The theme emerging from the last few years is that someone on the trustees is using the OMC funds to build a steadily growing property empire: among other investments, The Queen's Head Hotel ("QHH Limited"), the Old Post Office in Leeds, something referred to as Greyfriars Colchester which I assume is the eponymous luxury hotel, and now Castel Salbek which "acquired a property in Transylvania which is proposed to be developed into a small luxury hotel." What is a UK-based charity doing investing in a random small hotel in Transylvania? Your guess is as good as mine, but it doesn't seem to be a core focus for the charity, which makes me wonder which trustee has directed this investment, and how they (or their friends) expect to benefit from it.

If I were the Charities Commission, I think I'd be looking over the past few years of accounts and starting to ask some pointed questions about how exactly this entity is behaving as a charity in terms of fundraising for and investing in charitable causes, as opposed to being just a vehicle for speculating in (mostly hotel) property.

No comments:

Post a Comment

All comments are subject to retrospective moderation. I will only reject spam, gratuitous abuse, and wilful stupidity.