Tory MP Stewart Jackson
, a member of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), said it appeared local councils faced much stricter rules than academy trustees about how taxpayers’ money was spent.
PAC questioned the way academy trustees can benefit financially from involvement with academy charitable trusts. This comes in the wake of Guardian disclosures about how thousands of pounds of public money were paid to companies linked to academy trustees and their relatives.
, PAC’s chair, raised several concerns including:
1The culture of extravagance at E-Act which led to the resignation of CEO Sir Bruce Liddingon;
2The £500,000 payment to AET trustees;
3Payments made over two years by School Partnership Trust Academies (SPTA) for legal services to a firm of solicitors where an SPTA director was a partner.
4The Kings Science Academy land deal worth millions of pounds in rent to a company run by Alan Lewis, the academy’s patron and a vice chairman of the Conservative Party.
Hodge asked why the DfE didn’t just say that such deals, called “related party transactions”, were wrong and academy trustees should not do it:
“It is just wrong to hand money to a company in which you have a financial interest if you are a trustee.”
PAC is asking questions. They are right to do so. It reflects growing concerns about how academy trusts can be used as conduits for diverting taxpayers' money into the pockets of people associated with these trusts. Perhaps the Charities Commission should also look into whether charity law has been broken.
Education Secretary Michael Gove is the Principal Regulator of academy trusts. He should take Hodge’s advice and remind academy trustees that they should not give money to companies linked to trustees or their relatives.
It’s just wrong.