THE Charity Commission has launched a probe into two charities which help fund pupils at a private school near York – and stripped trustees of their duties.

The commission said there were "clear and ongoing serious regulatory issues relating to the administration" by trustees of The Martin Foundation and The Collegiate Charitable Foundation, which provide bursaries and support for pupils at Queen Ethelburga’s College and sister schools and provide advertising, facilities and equipment for the schools.

It said the issues included "the management of conflicts of interest, protecting and properly accounting for the charities’ assets, and potential unauthorised trustee benefit".

It said the inquiry was examining the extent to which potential conflicts of interest and connected party transactions had been properly managed, the extent to which there had been any unauthorised trustee benefit and whether the charities operated for exclusively charitable purposes.

It added that due to the seriousness of the regulatory concerns, the commission had appointed Geoff Carton-Kelly and Tom McLennan of FRP Advisory as joint interim managers to run the charities, with the powers and duties of trustees and, in order to protect the charities’ assets, it had issued temporary orders to the trustees and the charities’ bank.

The trustees said they were "surprised and disappointed" by the commission’s actions, claiming: “The commission appears to have acted disproportionately and without regard to the reputational damage which may be caused by their action or the possibility of working cooperatively with the trustees.

“The trustees have always dealt openly and constructively with inquiries from the Charity Commission and would hope to continue to engage in this way going forward.”

They said all expenditure by the Collegiate Charitable Foundation was directly in pursuit and accordance with its charitable objectives, while the Martin Foundation had been inactive since January 2016, equally all expenditure was "demonstrably in line with its charitable objectives".

They added: “The trustees are confident that both charities operate appropriately and remain willing and ready to address concerns raised by the Charity Commission.”