The Charity Commission has found an organisation established to build a new bridge in London is compliant with charity regulations.
The regulator has published the findings of its compliance case on the Garden Bridge Trust, having examined the charity’s books and records and met with trustees.
Garden Bridge Trust was formed to raise funds and oversee the construction and maintenance of a new bridge across the Thames River. The project is expected to cost around £185m, and critics have questioned whether the bridge offers value for money.
The case looked at whether conflicts of interest in the award of contracts had been declared and properly managed, and the due diligence carried out into the garden bridge project. It also examined the funding, structure, and governance of the charity.
The regulator found trustees were meeting their duties and complying with charity law.
The commission stressed it did not examine matters such as the merits of the project or how it is funded, as these issues are outside its regulatory remit.
The National Audit Office has published an investigation into the Department for Transport’s £30m grant towards the construction of the project. Dame Margaret Hodge MP is conducting a separate review of the project, including its value for money.
While the trust was found to be acting within the relevant regulations, the commission said trustees could make improvements to their annual reporting. Better reporting would provide greater insight to the progress made and challenges addressed in the last financial year.
Further, the regulator said it would have expected a fuller description of how restricted funds could be used to meet liabilities in the event of closure, given the fact the charity holds no reserves.
Charity Commission chief operating officer David Holdsworth said high profile charities can attract considerable public scrutiny, and the public rightly expect charities to be transparent and accountable.
“We have been able to offer public assurance that the Garden Bridge Trust is meeting its obligations as a registered charity and that it has the proper financial controls in place,” he said. “We are aware of the considerable public debate regarding this project. Our role is not to comment on the merits of the project but to assess concerns about its governance and ensure it is compliant with the legal framework for charities.”
Garden Bridge Trust chair Lord Mervyn Davies said the charity is pleased the regulator’s report recognised trustees’ financial management and strategic leadership.
“The trustees take their responsibilities seriously. 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. It will be a landmark for central London and bring huge benefits to the capital and the UK. 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.”
Access the commission’s report here.