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The chief of the zoo charity which employs Carrie Johnson is now paying quadruple the original rent to live in a stately home owned by the foundation after questions from watchdogs.

Damian Aspinall, who hired the PM’s wife as PR head for the Aspinall Foundation in January, was quizzed by regulators when it emerged he was paying just £2,500 a month to live in the 30-bedroom mansion.

The Daily Mail revealed the millionaire’s rental arrangements on Howletts House in February, just before the Charity Commission announced its statutory inquiry into claims of conflicts of interest and financial mismanagement.

Under charity law, trustees cannot usually benefit financially from their role. Part of the probe will be to enquire as to the financial arrangements of the foundation.

Damian Aspinall, (pictured with Carrie Johnson) who hired the PM's wife as PR head for the Aspinall Foundation in January, was quizzed by regulators when it emerged he was paying just £2,500 a month to live in the 30-bedroom mansion

Damian Aspinall, (pictured with Carrie Johnson) who hired the PM's wife as PR head for the Aspinall Foundation in January, was quizzed by regulators when it emerged he was paying just £2,500 a month to live in the 30-bedroom mansion

Damian Aspinall, (pictured with Carrie Johnson) who hired the PM’s wife as PR head for the Aspinall Foundation in January, was quizzed by regulators when it emerged he was paying just £2,500 a month to live in the 30-bedroom mansion

The rental rate previously paid on the Kent mansion by Mr Aspinall – who is chairman of trustees at the charity founded by his father John – is less than a typical five-bedroom terraced student house in nearby Canterbury. Recent accounts show Mr Aspinall, 61, paid £121,211 in rent ‘and other recharges’ last year – around £10,000 a month and up from £30,000 for 2019. He was also given £8,089 by the foundation, down from £113,122 the previous year.

Questions have been raised over the timing of the rent rise. Since 2014 rent and other charges at Howletts have varied from £30,000 to £47,000 a year. Sources close to the foundation insist the current rent is £45,000 a year, saying it is low because upkeep and insurance on the old property are so high.

The Charity Commission said because the inquiry was ongoing, ‘we cannot comment further’.

In a statement about its finances at the time of the Mail’s initial investigation, the charity said: ‘The Aspinall Foundation is and always has been fully committed to meeting its legal obligations as both a charity and a private company.

‘As an organisation, we always seek to operate in a transparent and ethical manner, with the oversight of independent trustees.’

Questions have been raised over the timing of the rent rise. Since 2014 rent and other charges at Howletts have varied from £30,000 to £47,000 a year. Pictured: Mr Aspinall with Victoria Aspinall

Questions have been raised over the timing of the rent rise. Since 2014 rent and other charges at Howletts have varied from £30,000 to £47,000 a year. Pictured: Mr Aspinall with Victoria Aspinall

Questions have been raised over the timing of the rent rise. Since 2014 rent and other charges at Howletts have varied from £30,000 to £47,000 a year. Pictured: Mr Aspinall with Victoria Aspinall 

Source: Daily Mail UK

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