London

Garden Bridge Trust cleared of financial irregularities

Artist's impression of the Garden Bridge over the River Thames Image copyright Heatherwick Studio
Image caption The tree-covered Garden Bridge would span the Thames between Temple and the South Bank

The trust behind plans to build a garden bridge across the River Thames in London has been cleared of any financial irregularities by the Charity Commission.

The regulator rejected a complaint from London MP Kate Hoey relating to concerns about the trust's spending.

But the Charity Commission found the Garden Bridge Trust had "sound financial processes" and the award of contracts was "robust".

The trust welcomed the findings.

Chairman Lord Mervyn Davies said: "We are pleased this report recognises trustees' financial management and our strategic leadership.

"We welcome the fact the Charity Commission has endorsed our approach and we are always looking to learn lessons and make improvements."

The Charity Commission investigated the award of contracts, how the trust conducted due diligence on spending, and the funding, structure and governance of the charity.

It found contracts were awarded according to robust processes and trustees were acting in compliance with charity law.

Image copyright Arup
Image caption Plans propose more than 270 trees and 2,000 shrubs would be planted on the bridge

Potential conflicts of interest were examined, with the charity's management found to have dealt with them correctly.

Individuals or companies donating money towards the construction of the bridge were not party to contracts made by the charity, the Charity Commission found.

But it said the trust should make more critical comparisons with other projects, provide more information in its annual accounts and offer more details about how funds will be spent in future.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Dame Margaret Hodge is leading a review into whether value for money has been achieved for the taxpayers' contribution to the bridge

The National Audit Office (NAO) conducted its own investigation into the Garden Bridge Trust last year, warning that nearly £23m of taxpayer money risked being lost if the project failed.

The NAO also discovered former Prime Minister David Cameron personally intervened to approve extra taxpayer funding for the bridge.

Last month the Garden Bridge Trust revealed it was "unable to conclude it is a going concern", admitting it was £56m short of its funding target in annual accounts submitted to Companies House.

It needs to raise an estimated £185m to complete the project.

Dame Margaret Hodge MP is conducting a review of the project at the request of London Mayor Sadiq Khan to determine whether it provides value for money.

He has previously said no more public funds should be used to build the bridge.

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