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Garden Bridge Trust: Charity Commission publishes report

London SE1 website team

The Charity Commission has published a report on the trust behind the "high profile and expensive failure" of the Garden Bridge, and has made recommendations to avoid similar situations arising in future.

The Charity Commission's report picks up on the unusual sequence of events which led to the founding of the Garden Bridge Trust at the behest of Transport for London.

"Londoners and taxpayers will legitimately feel angry and let down by the waste of millions of pounds of public money on a charitable project that was not delivered," said Baroness Stowell, chair of the Charity Commission.

"I understand that anger and am clear that this represents a failure for charity that risks undermining public confidence in charities generally.

"While the charity was not mismanaged, the public would also expect, as I do, that the right lessons are learnt from this case, so that we don't see a similar failure arising in future."

Tom Copley AM, chair of the London Assembly's Garden Bridge Working Group, said: "It is extremely disappointing that the Charity Commission has decided not to further investigate the role of the Garden Bridge Trustees for their part in the loss of millions of taxpayer's money. They are far from the only ones to blame for this fiasco. However, their decision to sign a construction contract in an attempt to push this project through, despite not having even secured the land on the south bank to build it on, nor the necessary planning consents, cost the taxpayer £21 million. Londoners may raise their eyebrows at the Commission's conclusion that this was a reasonable decision.

"We are clear that our enquiries into the myriad of failings surrounding the Garden Bridge will continue. As the Commission points out, it's now incumbent on the National Audit Office, Public Accounts Committee and TfL to look deeper into how the Trust handled public funds. But when it comes to seeking clarity around this murky project on behalf of London's taxpayers, the Assembly will not drop the mantle. We look forward to questioning TfL on this matter over the coming weeks."

Caroline Pidgeon, Liberal Democrat London Assembly Member, said: "It is disappointing although perhaps sadly inevitable that that the Charity Commission rely so heavily on legal definitions of charity law and continue to hold the line that they cannot take any further action. They even highlight some serious criticisms of aspects how the Garden Bridge Trust operated, in relation to publishing its accounts and their overall lack of transparency, but ultimately claim that on technical grounds they themselves can take no further action in investigating the project.

"Yet despite being frustrated that the Charity Commission refuses to continue its investigations I welcome the fact that they are sending out a very strong message about how many lessons need to be learnt before new charities are casually set up by government, solely to deliver a single public infrastructure project.

"They rightly point out that the public do not expect risks inherent in a major infrastructure project to be outsourced to a charity.

"The Charity Commission are also, above all else, highlighting that the Garden Bridge project was a high profile and expensive failure, with significant sums of public money thrown away for absolutely nothing of public benefit. This is clear to everyone it seems other than Boris Johnson and George Osborne, who so foolishly invested so much time and taxpayers' money in this absolute folly of a project."

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