Eighty-five years ago, an anonymous donor left £500,000 ($2.43 million at the 1928 exchange rate) to the U.K. government to help pay off the national debt. Today, the National Fund, held in trust by Barclays PLC (NYSE:BCS), is worth about £350 million ($547.44 million at the current exchange rate). Not nearly enough to pay off Britain’s £1.2 trillion ($1.88 trillion) national debt.
The anonymous donor stipulated the money must be used when the circumstances merited it, but neither World War II nor the various financial crises since 1928 have warranted such a payout.
The fund is now one of the U.K.’s 30th-biggest charities by net assets, according to the Financial Times. Since Barclays became its trustee in 2009, it has been trying to get court permission to either make the money available as charitable grants or just hand it straight over to the national treasury.
“We’ve been working ever since we became the trustee to change the original objects, which say the funds can be used only to pay off the entire national debt,” the FT quoted a Barclays representative as saying. “We are working with the Charity Commission and the attorney general’s office to look at how best to take the fund forward.”
A representative of the attorney general’s office told the FT, “We are looking at a number of options for the future of the fund, consistent with its object of extinguishing or reducing the national debt.”