Garden Bridge charity trustees 'have acted within the law'

A report by the Charity Commission on the Garden Bridge Trust says its processes for awarding contracts 'appear to have been robust' and potential conflicts of interest were managed appropriately

Garden Bridge: trust has 'acted properly'
Garden Bridge: trust has 'acted properly'

Trustees of the charity set up to build a tree-covered bridge across the River Thames have been meeting their duties and acting in accordance with charity law, the Charity Commission has concluded.

The regulator has today published a case report of its findings on the Garden Bridge Trust, which was registered in 2014 to construct and manage a pedestrian bridge over the Thames in central London.

The commission opened a case on the charity after it was alerted to concerns about the charity, including potential conflicts of interest in its awarding of contracts, the level of due diligence it had carried out and whether it had the ability to carry out a project of such magnitude.

The bridge, which the trust estimates will cost £185m, has faced opposition, with complainants highlighting the cost of the project to the public purse.

But the regulator’s report says: "The commission found that the trustees were meeting their duties and were acting in compliance with charity law."

The report says the commission did not consider matters outside of the charitable aspects of the case, such as the merits of the project or how it is funded.

It says the regulator inspected the charity’s books and records and met trustees and staff as part of its investigations.

The charity’s processes for awarding contracts "appear to have been robust", it says, and any potential conflicts of interest were managed properly.

The commission’s report says the "complex nature of the project has meant an unusually high forward spend".

Trustees were able to explain why they thought this was necessary, the report says, and the charity could account for spending so far and show evidence that it had been actively managed.

According to the report, the trust said it had raised £129m of the £185m needed to build the bridge, with £69m coming in private funds and £60m in public funds.

The charity could make improvements to its annual reporting, the report says, including providing more detail about the progress it has made and how the charity would meet its liabilities in the event of closure.

The charity’s trustees warned last month in its annual accounts that the project was not a going concern and the scheme could substantially exceed the estimated costs.

Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, has previously said that if the project does not go ahead an estimated £40m of public funding that has already been spent would be lost.

In September he ordered a review, led by the Labour MP Dame Margaret Hodge, of whether the project had so far provided value for money and criticised the lack of transparency around the scheme.

Lord Mervyn Davies, chairman of the Garden Bridge Trust, said in a statement today: "We welcome the fact that the Charity Commission has endorsed our approach, and we are always looking to learn lessons and make improvements.

"The Garden Bridge is an inspirational project that involves the best of British design and innovation. We now intend to draw a line in the sand about historical aspects of this project delivered by other parties and get on to make the Garden Bridge a reality."

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