A trust that ran schools in Kent and Sussex ran up more than £1m in debts, an accountant’s report has revealed.
Lilac Sky Academy Trust used funds meant for schools to pay for drinks at a party and breached compliance rules, according to its annual accounts.
The government stepped in to run the schools last year and is investigating the way the trust operated.
Trust founder Trevor Averre Beeson, who is no longer connected to the venture, has not responded to BBC inquiries.
The report, in the trust’s overdue accounts for the year to August 2016, reveals a net deficit of £1.3m and lists a catalogue of “irregularities” during the period when it was run by Mr Averre Beeson and his family.
Cash ‘for drinks’
- Money intended for new academies used “inappropriately”, requiring emergency Department for Education funds to ensure classrooms could open with basic equipment and furniture.
- “Inappropriate” public funding being used to buy drinks for an awards event.
- Concerns about links between the trust and some of its service providers.
- “Extortionate” consultancy costs amounting to almost £1,000 a day.
- The cost of “settlement agreements” to staff who were immediately re-engaged as consultants.
The report, by accounting officer Angela Barry, also criticised the “absence of clear lines of accountability” during the time Mr Averre Beeson and members of his family were trustees.
More than half of England’s secondary schools are run by self-governing academy trusts.
They are directly overseen by the government but manage their own finances.
Lilac Sky was investigated by the government’s Education Funding Agency – now the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) – and was closed amid concerns that standards at some of the schools had dropped.
The Department for Education confirmed the ESFA was still investigating “financial management and governance” under the previous trust regime but declined to comment further.