Sky News has learnt that the fundraising arm of Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) agreed at a board meeting on Tuesday to overturn its original decision to return £530,000 donated by the Presidents Club Charitable Trust.
The U-turn follows a furore over a Financial Times report in January which alleged improper and inappropriate behaviour by some of the guests at the men-only charity dinner at London’s Dorchester Hotel.
GOSH’s charity trustees initially said they would return money raised at Presidents Club events between 2009 and 2016, although the hospital had not been a beneficiary of this year’s dinner.
However, furious feedback from a large number of GOSH donors and discussions with the Charity Commission prompted a rethink among the trustees, who are chaired by John Connolly, a businessman who chairs G4S, the outsourcing giant.
Returning the money, as originally planned, had been rendered difficult by the Presidents Club’s decision to close.
In a statement issued to Sky News on Tuesday evening, a spokesperson for GOSH Children’s Charity said: “Our thinking is always guided by our aim to maximise the support we give to the hospital and the families it cares for.
“Following feedback from our supporters, guidance from the Charity Commission and taking into account the impending closure of the Presidents Club Charitable Trust, the trustees have decided to retain the funds donated by the Trust.
“We would like to thank all of our donors for their support, it is only through their generosity that we can make a difference for seriously ill children cared for at the hospital.”
Some attendees at January’s dinner were reported to have behaved inappropriately towards female staff.
The function was waited on by scores of “hostesses” who were given instructions about the colour and style of underwear they were permitted to wear.
They were also obliged to sign non-disclosure agreements relating to the behaviour of guests attending the dinner, who included dozens of executives from the property and financial services industries.
The fallout from the FT’s investigation led to the resignation of David Meller – the Presidents Club’s chairman – from the board of the Department for Education.
The Bank of England was among the organisations which cancelled events auctioned at the Dorchester, while Nadhim Zahawi, the children and families minister, was rebuked for his brief attendance at the dinner.
The news came at a torrid time for the voluntary sector, which has been rocked by a sexual abuse scandal involving former Oxfam workers who used prostitutes after the earthquake in Haiti in 2011.
In its statement hours after the FT story was published, GOSH’s charitable wing said: “We are shocked to hear of the behaviour reported at the Presidents Club Charitable Trust fundraising dinner. We would never knowingly accept donations raised in this way.
“We have had no involvement in the organisation of this event, nor did we attend and we were never due to receive any money from it.
“All monies raised in our name go to support vital work.
“However, due to the wholly unacceptable nature of the event we are returning previous donations and will no longer accept gifts from The Presidents Club Charitable Trust.”
A number of other charities, including the Evelina London Children’s Hospital, are also said to have elected to retain Presidents Club event donations.