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Christ Church blasted by former minister

The college has been criticised by Jonathan Aitken for the misuse of funds.

Jonathan Aitken, who was both an MP and Chief Secretary to the Treasury under John Major, has accused his former college Christ Church of misusing funds in a fight against their own dean, Martyn Percy. 

Aitken wrote a letter to the Charity Commission, in which it is claimed that the college had already spent £1.6 million on the case and it is “probable that the Governing Body will have to pay more than £2 million of its charitable funds”.

In the letter, Aitken wrote the following; “The scandal of wrongful charitable governance at Christ Church has grown, is continuing to grow and will soon become notorious as a result of media coverage, action by angry members of the wider Christ Church community, withdrawal of support by charitable donors and possible questions in Parliament.” 

“The question I and many other concerned observers of this scandal now want to know is: What is the Charity Commission doing about it?” 

Aitken was particularly critical of the attempt to have ‘large parts of the Tribunal’s report censored or redacted’, dubbing this ‘the worst part of the Christ Church scandal so far’.

Alongside his letter to the charity commission, Aitken gave Cherwell the following comment, “Like many members of the Christ Church Alumni Association, I regard it as a scandal of governance that the full Governing Body of the College has been refused sight of a full, unredacted copy of the Tribunal’s findings and reasons for clearing the Dean of all charges.”

“The notion that a small cabal of anti-Dean Dons can censor the Tribunal’s report is an attempt at self-serving protection for themselves because they are severely criticised in the Appendices of the report.”

“The wounds at Christ Church need to be healed, in the longer term, by a sustained effort by all parties towards truth and reconciliation. This remains impossible as long as the truth contained in the Tribunal’s findings is not allowed to be seen by the Governing Body. In my mind the big question is: ‘Can the Governing Body govern itself?”

A statement from the Charity commission in response to Aitken letter said that: “While the trustees in this case appear to have followed the charity’s rules, the large sums reportedly spent on the tribunal are of concern. We have therefore told the trustees to set out the actual costs involved and explain how they oversaw and controlled them.”

The charity commission added more recently that they “told the trustees of Christ Church to undertake a review of the charity’s governance. It is good practice for all charities to undertake such a review from time to time. We will not be involved in the review directly, but we expect the trustees to report to us on its outcome.”

When contacted for comment, a spokesperson for Christ Church said that, “As required by Christ Church’s Statutes, an internal tribunal was convened to consider a complaint raised against the Dean, which was subsequently dismissed. We are not yet in a position to confirm the total costs, but can confirm that the legal costs are being met out of Christ Church’s unrestricted funds and will not be directly funded by any donations.”

In a recent letter to undergraduates, Dean Martyn Percy said: “I am writing to thank you for your support of Christ Church over these past months. This has not been an easy year for the House, but I want to reassure you that we are committed to Christ Church and its flourishing. Like a family, even in the midst of difficult times, we retain our core purposes and identity.

“It will take time to reflect on the events of the past year, and we would ask you to allow us the space to do this. The House will need to carefully consider the tribunal process and, more generally, its governance arrangements. The latter will be reviewed through an independent review as has been recommended by the Charity Commission. I ask you to please bear with us whilst we undertake this important work. As you can appreciate, we will not be commenting further until the review has been concluded.”

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