Damning review calls for Garden Bridge project to be scrapped and criticises Boris Johnson
The controversial Garden Bridge project in London should be abandoned, a major review commissioned by Sadiq Khan has recommended.
Labour MP Dame Margaret Hodge said the new crossing would cost more than £200m and that it was “difficult to justify” more public money being committed.
The Garden Bridge was first approved by former mayor of London Boris Johnson but, amid concerns about costs and funding of the project, Mr Khan ordered an inquiry when he took over at City Hall in 2016.
Today’s report said decisions were “driven by electoral cycles rather than value for money”.
Dame Margaret said the bridge was still £70m short of the required capital funding for it to be built and that she was “sceptical” about the Garden Bridge Trust’s chances of filling that gap.
“Value for money for the taxpayer has not been secured,” the Barking MP said in a statement accompanying her report.
“It would be better for the taxpayer to accept the financial loss of cancelling the project than to risk the potential uncertain additional costs to the public purse if the project proceeds.
“In the present climate, with continuing pressures on public spending, it is difficult to justify further public investment in the Garden Bridge.
“I would urge the Mayor not to sign any guarantees until it is confirmed that the private capital and revenue monies have been secured by the Garden Bridge Trust.”
She added: “The goalposts have moved several times and each time the risks to the taxpayer have intensified. Looking to the future, the costs of construction have escalated and are likely to increase further.”
If the project was cancelled, the total cost to the taxpayer would reach £46.4m.
JOHNSON 'ULTIMATELY RESPONSIBLE'
Dame Margaret was also sharply critical of Mr Johnson, saying she “deeply regrets” the now Foreign Secretary’s refusal to cooperate with the review.
Meetings between Mr Johnson, his political staff and officials at Transport for London may have “influenced and ultimately biased the procurement process”, which was “not open, fair or competitive”, she said.
“Having decided to pursue a competitive public procurement both politicians and officials needed to proceed in a fair and open way so that all parties tendering for the project were on a level playing field. I found it difficult to find evidence that demonstrated that this was the case...
“Ultimately the then Mayor, Boris Johnson, must be held responsible for this.”
On behalf of Mr Khan, a City Hall spokesperson said: “The Mayor has been absolutely clear that he will not spend any more of London taxpayers' funds on the Garden Bridge.
“It is the Garden Bridge Trust that remains responsible for raising the necessary funds, and delivering the project.”
Liberal Democrat GLA member Caroline Pidgeon described today’s findings as “totally damning”.
She said: “This is the final nail in the coffin of the Garden Bridge. The Mayor should put us out of our misery and pull the plug on this project.”