The body which runs London’s Square Mile will publish details of the amount of money it has secretly stored away in a private account over the last 800 years for the first time today, The Independent has learnt.
The City of London Corporation will reveal that its “City’s Cash” account, where it has been putting donations from benefactors like the real-life Dick Whittington - as well as money it has made from rent and investments - holds more than £1.3bn.
The account has been the basis of much of the criticism about the City of London Corporation’s alleged lack of transparency.
And today’s publication is believed to be a response to the protests by the Occupy London group, among other critics. The Corporation is a partly private entity, and unlike other local authorities, some of its accounts and activities are not covered by the Freedom of Information Act.
Richard Paton, a spokesman for the Occupy London protesters, said: “This is a success, but a partial one. The publication of the City’s Cash account was one of the demands we made; we also wanted the whole of the Corporation to be opened up to the Freedom of Information Act.
William Taylor, of the City Reform Group, which is encouraging people who want to see root-and-branch reform of the Corporation to stand for election to its executive council, said: “This sounds like an important first step towards the more open and transparent administration the City Reform Group is asking for.
“Openness and accountability are key parts of the Pledges we are asking candidates for the March 2013 elections to sign up to. We hope that the City of London Corporation decides to willingly answer any questions that may arise from this release.
“More than that, we look forward to a proper debate about how the City Corporation uses its immense resources, to ensure that it does so in the interests of all citizens of London and consumers of financial services.”
The City of London Corporation publishes some details of how the City’s Cash money is spent but has refused to say how much it has in the account for centuries. It is thought that, in revealing the figure of £1.319bn, it hopes to clean up its image after a difficult period, which has seen protest groups consistently attacking the Corporation. As part of the changes, it is also beginning to publish all of the financial information it puts out in a single document.
The City’s Cash endowment fund collects money made from the Corporation’s property and investment earnings. According to its website, the money is used “for the benefit of London as a whole but also of relevance nationwide. The management and conservation of over 10,000 acres of open space, all of the Lord Mayor's activities, Smithfield, Billingsgate, and Leadenhall markets, three of the highest achieving independent schools in the country and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama – all these are paid for by City’s Cash at no cost to the public”.
Figures released today will show that 29 per cent of the £145m it received in the year to March 2012 was from school fees, while eight per cent was from rents and nine per cent from grants, reimbursements and contributions. Income from investments was the largest portion, bringing in 52 per cent.
It spent approximately the same amount in that period, with six per cent being given out as grants, two per cent for “economic development” and 11 per cent being spent on “markets”. The Corporation said it spent 14 per cent of that figure on maintaining the open spaces it responsible for, like Hampstead Heath, a similar amount on “investment and property management expenses” and 44 per cent on education.
Critics will be particularly interested in the £12.8m spent on “City representation”, which represents nine per cent of the expenditure. However, of all of the headline income and expenditure categories, the document did not provide any more detailed breakdowns.