A generous donation of £500,000 made to the National Fund in the late 1920s has sat used for over 85 years. The money, which was given by an anonymous donor to assist Britain in repaying its First World War debts, has remained untouched since 1928 in one of Britain’s most mysterious cases of public giving.
The anonymous donation, worth £500,000 in 1928, is worth approximately £350 million in today’s currency. The donor that gave the at-the-time incredible sum to the nation specified that the money must only be spent when the nation has repaid its national debt – which was, at the time, largely related to the First World War.
Today, however, Britain’s debts are in excess of £1.2 trillion, and the donation has relatively little sway to help them disappear. The National Fund has been managed by Barclays in the years since and has grown into one of the UK’s largest charities in terms of sheer assets.
The bank has made efforts to turn the money into working capital to be used to help charities and the government, but has faced legal issues in doing so. Barclays claims that it is ‘working with the Charity Commission and the attorney general’s office to look at how best to take the fund forward.’
Political parties have also distanced themselves from the donation, claiming that it does not necessarily belong in the hands of political bodies. David Cameron claims that the donation is clearly not for politics, noting that the money was intended to ‘benefit the nation’ instead of aiding a specific political party.
The statement came after government officials were scorned for splitting the money based on ‘whichever party was in government.’ The fund will continue to sit in legal limbo until Barclays is able to resolve whether or not it can be given to charities, or whether it will need to remain in a trust until the national debt is paid off.