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Oxford college spent £6.6m attempting to oust its former Dean, Charity Commission finds

After the oversight body’s decision, Reverend Percy, who formally left office in April, said: “This is a devastating outcome against a charity that was clearly out of control. There is now no doubt that a small group of trustees at Christ Church were determined to get rid of me at all costs. …

“Alumni and donors will be shocked that £6.6m – money ostensibly earmarked for education – has instead been squandered on lawyers and PR agencies.”

He said those responsible must be held accountable, adding: “The Church of Christ cannot recover from this incident until that happens.”

Independent Governance Review

The formal warning also calls for the overall regulator to complete a governance review, keep the committee informed of progress, and ensure that the Secretary’s latest annual report complies with legal requirements that ensure the charity is accountable.

He cautioned that failure to take steps to address misconduct and/or mismanagement may lead to further regulatory action against the charity’s trustees.

Helen Earner, Director of Regulatory Services at the Charities Commission, said: “These long and drawn-out disputes threaten to undermine the reputation of the Church of Christ and damage broader trust in charities.

“It is not our duty as an organizer to take sides in disputes. Our role is to ensure that charities are effectively managed and that charitable funds are properly accounted for. All trustees must demonstrate sound financial management, regardless of the level of resources available to them.

“We consider the actions of trustees of Christ Church to amount to mismanagement and/or misconduct, having failed to responsibly manage the charity’s resources or ensure that the charity is liable in the context of a costly dispute.

important national institution

“The Committee welcomes the fact that an independent judgment review is now underway at the charity, led by Rt Hon Dominic Grieve KC, and we expect the Trustees to update us on progress.

“Good governance must be a priority for all trustees, particularly those involved in such important national institutions as Oxford Christ Church.”

A spokesman for Christ Church, which was founded in 1546 and has educated 13 British prime ministers as well as 17 archbishops, said: “In extremely complex and ever-changing circumstances, trustees have made decisions that, having taken professional advice, have determined that they are in the best interests of Christ Church.

“Many costs were incurred as a result of Dr. Percy’s refusal to compromise with an administrative body that had lost confidence in him.”

The spokesperson added that a review of the college’s governance is underway.

Last December, Chris Patten, a former cabinet minister who is now Oxford’s chancellor, said the “protracted and ongoing dispute” had damaged the university’s reputation.

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