Trustees at the Manor Building Preservation Trust used the charity’s funds to live in a mansion rent-free, to buy high-end cars and give each other salaries of over £128,000, Civil Society reports via the Charity Commission.
… trustees had used this mission as a guise to inhabit a mansion rent-free…
Civil Society writes:
The Commission published the findings of its statutory inquiry into the preservation charity earlier this week and concluded that there was serious misconduct by its trustees. The Manor Building Preservation Trust had its charity status removed on 5 January 2021.
The regulator opened the inquiry in June 2016 after it was suspected that trustees were using charitable funds for “significant private gain”.
A family affair
Cyril Smith and his son and daughter-in-law, Matthew Smith and Mariya Smith, were the three main trustees of the charity, which was formed in 1999 and registered in 2004 with the aim to “preserve for the benefit of the nation, the historical, architectural and constructional heritage that may exist in building”. However, the inquiry found that trustees had used this mission as a guise to inhabit a mansion rent-free.
The trustees purchased Goldington Hall supposedly “as a renovation project and a method of generating revenue for the charity”. The Commission found that since 2010 they were living in the property rent-free and using it as their family home….
Though the trustees told the inquiry that “their occupation of the hall acted as a form of security service”, the Commission ruled that the private benefit of occupying the hall outweighed the benefits to the charity. It noted that alternative security arrangements could have been considered by the trustees, such as opening the hall for public use under the supervision of the charity.
….The Commission also found that these trustees had used charitable funds to pay for and maintain high-end cars like Bentleys and Land Rovers…..
….The Commission found that a £17,655 of the charity’s money was spent on entertaining and £20,300 spent on travel and livelihood costs which bore no relation to the charity’s goals but only served to benefit its trustees.
A further £31,220 of charitable funds was spent on professional advice regarding the potential development of plots of lands, as Matthew Smith was seeking to build a property “to be used as a domestic family home”….
….The trustees were removed and the charity shut down earlier this year.
Following this, the Manor Building Preservation Trust’s remaining assets have been redirected to The Landmark Trust, a building conservation charity.