UK wants to unlock century-old secret fund to pay off national debt

The UK government intends to force open a £475 million ($640 million) charity fund untouched since 1928. It wants to put the money towards paying off national debt.

The National Fund was established 90 years ago when an anonymous benefactor donated £500,000 on the condition that it must stay untouched until it was large enough to pay off the entire national debt.

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The fund currently stands at £475 million, representing just 0.06 percent of the country’s total debt. UK's total public debt is estimated at £1.7 trillion ($2.3 trillion), about twice the level it was before the 2008 financial crisis.

“Almost 90 years ago, an anonymous donor bequeathed money to the nation and yet we have not been able to put it to good use,” said Attorney General Jeremy Wright. “We have been working with the Treasury, trustees and the Charity Commission to find a solution consistent with the donor's original objectives of extinguishing the national debt.” Any changes to the fund would need approval from the High Court.

Barclays, which is overseeing the management of the fund, has been trying for years to obtain permission to gain access to the money, to make it available for charitable grants or hand it over to the Treasury.

The original £500,000 donation was a cash sum of £338,909 and securities to the value of £160,969. Accounts for the fund show that gains on investments and exchange movements amounted to an overall net gain of £46,606,147.

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