I've been comparing the accounts over the last few years, and while there is no specific item of expenditure titled "Lord Carlile", the figure for "Governance" is most illuminating.
These are the values for recent years.
2007 - £24,114
2008 - £21,280
2009 - £20,278
2010 - £20,392
2011 - £256,372
2012 - £419,451
The average for the years 2007-2010 is £21,500 give or take a few pounds. This is the baseline governance cost for the Abbey - probably covering accountants' fees, auditors' fees and an occasional bit of solicitor's advice.
But the sum total in excess of that baseline figure for 2011 and 2012 is huge. The combined cost of those two years is £675,823. Subtract 2 years worth of baseline costs and you still have about £633,000 (rounding to the nearest thousand).
Not all of that will have gone to Lord Carlile. The Abbey appointed a solicitor to instruct him, who as it happens was defending Father David Pearce in a further criminal trial at the same time as he was instructing Lord Carlile concerning an inquiry that was at least in part looking into his client's criminal activities.
No doubt other solicitors were also employed in drawing up the trust deeds which separated the school from the Abbey and set up a separate charity for the School with effect from 1st September last year. But knowing that Lord Carlile is a senior barrister, a former MP and a member of the House of Lords, one can surmise that he is far from cheap, and I suspect that quite a large proportion of that money was spent on him.
So, what did they get for their money?
- A nice glossy report with Lord Carlile's name in large letters on the front cover.
- 37 pages of report which made no recommendations regarding safeguarding, except for those which had already been made in previous investigations by
- the Charity Commission,
- the Independent Schools Inspectorate
- the diocesan safeguarding adviser for the diocese of Arundel and Brighton.
- A series of recommendations concerning governance, separating the school from the abbey and increasing the lay membership of the school governing board. While these recommendations are sensible enough in themselves, they actually do little or nothing to address safeguarding issues - independent schools with a lay governance structure can also have dreadful safeguarding problems, as has been shown since at Wellington College and Chetham's School.
- A nice positive closing paragraph which the Abbey was able to include in its annual report two years running.
- Lord Carlile's endorsement of the school's new child protection policy and its inclusion as an additional 19 pages in his report. This policy contained gaping holes in its arrangements for reporting abuse, which I have previously written about in The Tablet.
One can only conclude that they didn't really want a report that got to the bottom of their safeguarding problems, given how happy they have been with this report.
So this has essentially been a PR exercise aimed at rehabilitating the reputation of the school at a cost of about £633,000. That comes to an extra £633 or so on the fees for every pupil in the school, spread over 2 years. Given that a proportion of pupils are on scholarships and bursaries, it has cost more for those pupils who pay full fees.
Remember that the Carlile report hasn't made any new recommendations at all about safeguarding or child protection. None. So the Abbey has spent £633 per pupil on Carlile for the purpose of improving the school's reputation, and spent £0 on Carlile for the purpose of safeguarding improvements.
Parents, I hope you feel your school fees have been wisely spent.