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Landlord that’s trying to rob state primary school of playing fields sees assets rise in value by 20 times rate of inflation.

The Dulwich Estate gets £30 million wealthier in one year.

The Dulwich Estate gets £30 million wealthier in one year.

 

At some point over the past couple of weeks The Dulwich Estate, the vast south London landowner with charitable status which gives 85% of its expendable money to three highly exclusive private schools, published its accounts to March 2016. The most revealing detail is the graph above, with its accompanying narrative. It shows that in the preceding calendar year the value of Dulwich Estates assets went from £262.5 million to £293.2 million, a rise of £30.7 million or, more importantly 11.7%. That’s almost 20 times the current inflation rate of 0.6%.

 

Regular readers of this blog will know that I live  in the neighbourhood impacted upon by The Dulwich Estate. I have pointed out that its business practices as a landlord, with tax free status, have done huge damage to the local community. You can read my first piece about it here. I focussed on the fact that the chief beneficiaries of the estate are privileged fee paying schools; ones which proclaim a commitment to the local community in which they are located, but which seem incapable of doing anything to stop it being damaged by the charity which keeps hosing them down with cash.

 

More recently I described how The Dulwich Estate was working to take outdoor space from a state primary, the Judith Kerr School in Herne Hill. I made the point that their only justification for doing this was the commercial imperative of working their assets to the full. You can read that piece here. It inspired a letter to the head teachers of the beneficiary schools, launched by a former Alleyn’s pupil, which has since been signed by nearly 200 pupils and parents, both former and current. You can read that here.

 

TIME FOR THE RUBBER MALLET: just how bloody wealthy does Dulwich Estate need to become? If its assets are appreciating by nearly 12% a year – or £30 million – does it really need to cash in by robbing a state primary school of its playing grounds? Especially to fund exclusive independent schools? I keep asking the head teachers of those schools what they think about all this but they refuse to comment. Tomorrow is A’ level and AS’ level results day. All three head teachers will be present. Perhaps current pupils and parents would like to ask the question.

 

Those wishing to defend The Dulwich Estate will point out that the appreciation in the asset is mostly down to rising property prices, over which they have no control. There are two points to be made. Firstly, by ramping up rents they are directly influencing those property prices. And secondly, even if we accept they have nothing to do with it – which I don’t – the fact still remains that their assets are up by 11.7% across the year. No one could ever accuse them of not having worked in the commercial interests of the charity, regardless of whether they take away the play area from the Judith Kerr.

 

Anyone wishish to look at the accounts for themselves will find them here (PDF). The graph is on page 6 and a detailed breakdown is on page 13. If anyone with a bit more accounting knowledge than me notices anything else of interest please do get in touch.

 

Jay Rayner

SE24

3 comments on “Landlord that’s trying to rob state primary school of playing fields sees assets rise in value by 20 times rate of inflation.

  1. Stephen Lundy on

    I think you misunderstand how charities work. There is a split between what they do charitably and what the trustees must do with regards to assets, income and expenditure. If the trustees were to make investment decision contrary to investment advice and/or make decisions where the charity suffered detriment they are personally responsible to account to the charity for the loss. Have a read of the Cowan v Scargill case and the Charities Act 1993. The charity is not there to get wealthy or accumulate assets; the only purpose of the capital is to generate income so they can meet their charitable purposes. Charities are also not supposed to invest on the basis that assets will go up in value but that they will provide income and an increasing income. Assets go up and down in value and charities need to recognise that. It maybe that last year this charity’s assets went up 11.7% but that is only one year and its ability to generate income elsewhere in Gilts will have gone down. The overwhelming obligation of the trustees is to protect the charity’s capital and its ability to generate income in the future. https://www.sackers.com/pension/cowan-v-scargill-high-court-4-april-1984/

    Reply
    • Jay Rayner on

      On the one hand, you are of course right. On the other they also have a responsibility to reputation, under charity commission rules.. Have a look at the graph in total. Assets have appreciated by nearly 50% since 2010, far beyond anything they could reasonably need. And if you read all of my pieces you’ll get a sense of damage being done by a rampant landlord which has a charitable status many of us find exceedingly questionable.

      At all points the issue has not been whether what they are doing is legal. It clearly is. It’s whether it is moral.

      Reply
  2. Sally Beck on

    Jay I’m so delighted you’re doing this. David and Goliath doesn’t cover Dulwich estates vs the local state schools really, but I can’t think of a better analogy. I hope one of our friends at a National paper picks up on it (or maybe they have already and I missed it) or at the very least the good old SLP. Looking forward to reading more posts.

    Reply

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