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Are pond charges making up for funds wasted elsewhere?

15 October, 2020

The City of London Corporation has questions to answer on use of charitable funds

• BECAUSE the recent Lisvane report throws light on the funding of Hampstead Heath, may I have space for a further observation or two?

The accounts of City Cash – one of the big charitable funds administered by the City of London Corporation which finances Hampstead Heath – appears to donate large and significant funds on promoting the City of London as a profitable, private enterprise, hub of financial and related businesses.

It includes, according to Lord Lisvane’s report, a “hospitality working party”. Champagne and caviar carried in knapsacks? Part of that spending goes on public relations and part on economic development of the City of London.

One asks three questions about this, particularly in a period when charitable support of Hampstead Heath appears to be on the decline through reported reduced real-term expenditure and the novel introduction of charges for use of its ponds.

First and foremost: Are “public relations” and “economic development” legitimate objectives for charitable funds? Should such activities not be financed by other means?

Second: Why do they evidently absorb so much charitable fund cash? (reportedly £37.5million on “City Representation” in the three years to 2019 – increasing at 5.5 per cent compound annually).

Third: Has that expenditure, historically, been largely a waste of money, to the detriment of more obvious charitable objectives, with which such expenditure massively competes?

Lord Lisvane’s report describes this city corporation, charitably funded public relations and economic development work, in critical terms.

Essentially, that its PR activities are unquestioned but that its economic development activities have generated “frustration” in critics, noting no “politically” endorsed strategy and the infrequent meetings of the committee in question. It is not “especially active” he reports.

One would like to hear why so much appears to have been spent over the years, evidently to so little good effect (with the exception of the PR budget) and why it is designated as an activity worthy of charitable funding?

Is this one of the reasons why use of historic Hampstead Heath is now subject to charging?

Chairman, United Swimmers Association


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