Oliver Letwin not sorry for overruling civil servants on funding for Kids Company

The Cabinet Office minister released £3m to the charity days before it collapsed, but tells a committee of MPs today that he has no regrets about doing so

Oliver Letwin
Oliver Letwin

Oliver Letwin, the Cabinet Office minister who overruled civil servants' recommendation not to release a £3m grant to Kids Company just days before the charity’s collapse, has told MPs he does not regret funding the charity.

Letwin was interviewed today at a hearing of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee as part of its inquiry into the relationship between Kids Company and Whitehall.

Asked by the Labour MP Paul Flynn if he had sought penitence for doing "something wrong by boosting this charity and making it more attractive to other donors", Letwin said he had not.

He said he had asked himself if he should have stopped funding the charity after it failed to meet the conditions of the £4.3m grant it received in April and had concluded that the answer was no.

"I had no basis for assuming that their financial governance was anything but reasonably OK," he said.

He said he felt the charity could restructure successfully after the removal of Camila Batmanghelidjh as chief executive and could "carry on its good work".

Bernard Jenkin, the Conservative MP who chairs the committee, told Letwin he had given the charity money because he was "enamoured".

Jenkin said: "This charity had unprecedented access [to senior politicians] and that's why it got the money. You wouldn't have been giving them money if you hadn't been enamoured. How can we possibly trust you to give an objective assessment of this situation?"

Letwin told the committee that the charity collapsed because it didn't raise the private sector funding it had expected to, and this was made particularly challenging when "donors fled" after allegations of child abuse were made this summer.

Asked where the responsibility for the government's failed relationship with the charity lay, Letwin referred to Tim Loughton, the former children and families minister, who was also interviewed by the committee this morning, and the other ministers who gave Kids Company grants as far back as 2002.

Letwin said he took responsibility for the two grants he gave.

He said that Nick Hurd, the former Minister for Civil Society, and Francis Maude, the former Minister for the Cabinet Office, had also had responsibility for overseeing Kids Company decisions.

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