Garden Bridge sinks with all (£37m) public funds lost


The Garden Bridge Trust (GBT) has announced that it will be winding up its controversial scheme across the Thames, prompting a blame game from those involved.

The GBT levelled blame at the current London mayor Sadiq Khan, who in turn blamed predecessor Boris Johnson.

In a statement, the charity set up to build and run the proposed bridge said it had informed Mr Khan of its decision, as well as Transport for London (TfL) and the Department for Transport, who have between them handed out over £37m in public funds - albeit against the advice of civil servants.

What the bridge might have looked like

It said it had no other choice ‘because of lack of support for the project going forward from the mayor’, despite talks with a possible benefactor prepared to provide the required guarantee.

Lord Mervyn Davies, chairman of the Trust, said: ‘We are incredibly sad that we have not been able to make the dream of the Garden Bridge a reality and that the mayor does not feel able to continue with the support he initially gave us. We had made great progress obtaining planning permission, satisfying most of our planning conditions and we had raised £70m of private money towards the project.

‘It is all the more disappointing because the Trust was set up at the request of TfL, the organisation headed up by the mayor, to deliver the project. It is a sad day for London because it is sending out a message to the world that we can no longer deliver such exciting projects.’

The Trust pointed to a letter from Mr Khan to Lord Davies in April in which, ‘despite previous assurances given about his support for the project’, the mayor said he was not prepared to sign the guarantee for the annual maintenance costs of the bridge, a condition of planning consent.

It said it had since examined in detail all options available to it: ‘This included discussions with a potential benefactor who was keen to provide the required guarantee. It also had further discussions with the Government.

‘Unfortunately, the benefactor concerned and the Trustees have all concluded that they cannot proceed with what was always designed to be a public project in the heart of the capital without the support of the Mayor of London.’

Following his election in May 2016, Mr Khan initially backed the project on the grounds that ‘taxpayers will have spent £37.7m for no benefit at all'.

'However if we complete the project and our loan is repaid in full then the ultimate cost to taxpayers will be under half that cost at £18m.’

His letter in April followed a highly critical report from Dame Margaret Hodge, the former chair of the Commons Public Accounts Committee, and a National Audit Office investigation, which found that ministers twice increased the Government’s exposure to losses under the project against the advice of officials.

Former London mayor Boris Johnson is now foreign secretary

Mr Khan, said: ‘Following the very serious issues highlighted in Dame Margaret Hodge’s independent review of the bridge - including a funding gap of over £70m, potentially unlimited costs to London taxpayers to fund the bridge in the future, systemic failings in the procurement process and decisions not being driven by value for money - I could not permit a single penny more of London taxpayers’ money being spent on it.’

‘Londoners will, like me, be very angry that London taxpayers have now lost tens of millions of pounds – committed by the previous Mayor on a project that has amounted to nothing.’


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