NCVO calls for National Fund to become £500m community wealth fund

02 Oct 2018 News

Geoffrey Cox, the Attorney General

The chief executive of NCVO, Sir Stuart Etherington, has written to the Attorney General, asking him to consider channelling the money from the closure of the National Fund to charity – potentially into a community wealth fund.

The National Fund is one of the wealthiest charities in the UK, and was set up 90 years ago to pay off the national debt. However the national debt remains 4,000 times the size of the charity, and there is no realistic chance of it achieving its goal, so the Attorney General’s Office will go to court to seek the closure of the fund.

At present, the money is due to be absorbed by the government and spent on paying back the national debt. But NCVO has said that the money could have a more significant impact if channelled to the charity sector.

Karl Wilding, director of public policy and volunteering at NCVO, wrote in a blog yesterday that it could be combined with money due to be moved into the sector from dormant assets to form a community wealth fund, which would invest through community foundations in deprived areas.

A similar idea was proposed yesterday in a letter to the chancellor, which also called for action on a UK Shared Prosperity Fund, to replace EU spending on charities.

The decision to close the National Fund was taken by Jeremy Wright, the previous Attorney General, and Etherington has now written to Geoffrey Cox, his successor, to ask him to consider how the money should be spent.

“As you are aware, the national debt currently stands at £1.8 trillion – almost 4,000 times the size of the charity,” Etherington wrote. “It increases each day by around £400m, a sum nearly equal to the National Fund’s entire assets. 

“We think that it is possible to find a solution that would respect the principles of charity law and the intentions of the donor, and enable HM Government to meet some of the aims it has outlined, namely strengthening communities and support social action in deprived communities. I would like to ask you to meet with NCVO to explore alternative solutions. 

“We understand the need for the funds to be applied in accordance with the cy-près principle but we are also conscious that this windfall will be of marginal significance to the public finances in the context of the figures noted above, whereas such a sum could have a very significant impact on public life if used towards increasing the funding of charities in some way.”

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