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Zurbarans' saviour donates further £1m to County Durham
A PHILANTHROPIST has donated £1m towards tackling social deprivation and creating jobs in County Durham.
Financier Jonathan Ruffer and his wife, Jane, decided to give the County Durham Community Foundation its largest single contribution as part of their aim to cement their commitment to the area.
In July, Mr Ruffer completed the long-awaited multimillion pound purchase of Auckland Castle and the famous Zurbaran paintings from the Church Commissioners.
He is now working on a masterplan to transform the Bishop Auckland landmark into a major tourist attraction and Christian Heritage Centre, but the work may not be completed until 2017.
The couple were keen to give something back in the short term and are passionate about supporting regeneration in deprived areas.
“It will be years before we get the full benefits so it is nice to be doing something quicker than that.”
He added: “I am keen to support and build teams that will improve social deprivation and empower people.”
Mr Ruffer has not imposed any conditions on how the money should be spent but he would prefer it to be handed out in small amounts. Exact details have not yet been decided but grants will be available to community groups and individuals, and priority areas will be getting people into work, improving health and supporting employment opportunities.
Sir Paul Nicholson, president of the County Durham Community Foundation and Lord Lieutenant of County Durham, said: “Jonathan and Jane’s vision and commitment for the castle in Bishop Auckland and the people of County Durham are quite remarkable.
“We are overwhelmed by their generosity and the gift will make a huge difference to local communities.”
Mark I’Anson, chairman of County Durham Community Foundation, said: “They have a real commitment to the area and we have been given complete freedom to use the money in the best way we can.
“With our expertise and this generous donation we can do a lot. This is the single largest donation we have ever had.”
Barbara Gubbins, chief executive of County Durham Community Foundation, added “This is a great opportunity for us to look at the bigger picture, using Jonathan and Jane’s funding to do more strategic grant-making, while continuing to mix and match our other funds to make grants to voluntary-led groups which also vitally need our support.
“The combination of our programmes now makes us the largest grant-maker in County Durham.”