Charity to reject record £11m donation from trust whose accused founder resigns

09 Oct 2023 News

Hamish Ogston has stepped down as chair of his foundation after being accused of human trafficking in an investigation by the Sunday Times.

Recipients of funding from the Hamish Ogston Foundation including English Heritage have said they will return recent grants they have received following the reports.

The newspaper’s original reports alleged that Ogston trafficked women either for his private office or his foundation, which he set up in 2019.

Further reports published at the weekend allege that Ogston “set up his charity after asking lobbyists to help him secure a knighthood”.

Stepping down from board

The foundation has announced that Ogston has resigned from its board following the reports and it has appointed a replacement trustee, with plans to recruit a third.

“A new trustee has been appointed with immediate effect and Hamish Ogston has confirmed that he has elected to step down once the board has appointed a further trustee so that the foundation can continue its important work,” a statement on its website reads.

It says the foundation remains to “honouring the grant agreements that it has entered into to date”, which amount to over £40m.

The Charity Commission website still lists Ogston as the foundation’s chair, with his daughter Isabella Ogston listed as the only other trustee.

English Heritage ‘severs ties’ after £11m donation

The Hamish Ogston Foundation pledged £11.2m to English Heritage in the summer, which would have been the largest donation the charity had ever received.

It planned to run an apprenticeship programme with the funding designed to pass the skill of flint-knapping, a type of stone masonry, to a younger generation.

But after the reports regarding the foundation’s founder, English Heritage has announced it will no longer use the money.

“Given the extremely serious nature of the recent allegations concerning Hamish Ogston, English Heritage has decided to sever its ties with the Hamish Ogston Foundation – of which Hamish Ogston is the chair,” it said in a statement.

“Of the £11.2m committed, we have received to date £667,000. We have placed those funds into a separate bank account where they are clearly identifiable and we are returning them to the foundation.

“We are not using any of the funds received from the foundation to apply against any spend we’ve incurred to date on our heritage skills programme - those costs are being paid from English Heritage’s own unrestricted funds.

“Nor will English Heritage draw down on any further funds committed by the Hamish Ogston Foundation.”

English Heritage said its decision not to use the funding meant “a setback to our heritage skills programme” but the charity said it remains “committed to delivering it”.

The charity said it has also filed a serious incident report with the Charity Commission.

Other grant recipient returns funds

Public body Historic England also plans to return funding.

A spokesperson said: “Historic England and the Historic England Foundation have decided to take steps to end our relationship with the Hamish Ogston Foundation. 

“We will not be accepting their funds for future work relating to the Heritage Building Skills Programme and will be returning £50,000 which we had received towards research and development for a national expansion of the programme.”

Meanwhile, a National Trust spokesperson said: “Given the severity of the allegations published in the Sunday Times we have suspended our work with the Hamish Ogston Foundation.

“The return of any charitable funds is currently under review.” 

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