Friday, June 23, 2017
Hodge tells London Mayor that Garden Bridge project should be scrapped

Hodge tells London Mayor that Garden Bridge project should be scrapped

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Processed 05-12-13 - Week 49 Artists impression of the proposed 'Thames Garden Bridge' between Southbank and Temple © Heatherwick Studio

The Garden Bridge project, to construct a new crossing of the Thames to the South Bank should be scrapped, a review has found.

Dame Margaret Hodge’s review said it would be better to ditch the Garden Bridge than risk uncertain costs, after more than £60m has already been spent.

The Garden Bridge Trust admitted three months ago that its future was in doubt after publishing accounts which showed a £70m shortfall in funding.

Dame Margaret, the MP for Barking and Dagenham and former chair of the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee was asked in September to head an inquiry into the project by London Mayor Sadiq Khan.

Prime Minister David Cameron had personally intervened to approve extra taxpayer money for the project.

The National Audit Office said at the time nearly £23m of taxpayer money was at risk of being lost.

Dame Margaret said: “Value for money for the taxpayer has not been secured.

“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.”

Dame Margaret said decisions on the Garden Bridge were driven more by electoral cycles than value for taxpayers’ money.

Her review also found costs spiralling out of control from an early estimate of £60m to over £200m now.

Other findings include:

  • The Trust has lost two major private donors and has had no new pledges since August 2016
  • Very little progress has been made on raising money to fund maintenance of a completed bridge
  • There was not an open, fair and competitive process around two procurements

A spokesperson for the Mayor of London said: “The Mayor wants to thank Dame Margaret Hodge for this thorough report, which raises some very serious questions about the way the project has been handled. The Mayor will now take some time to carefully consider it and its implications.

“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.

“The report also raises some specific concerns around how the previous Mayor influenced Transport for London (TfL) practice on this project in areas like procurement. These were concerns that the current Mayor shared when he came into office and from day one he sought to address them. A key part of this was putting in place a new, stronger TfL Board with a greater ability to provide proper oversight and scrutiny over decision-making, including how Mayoral Directions are implemented and ensuring that relevant processes are followed.”

Caroline Pidgeon, Liberal Democrat London Assembly Member, said: “This is a totally damning report. It is a disgrace that key decisions on the Garden Bridge were driven by electoral cycles rather than any concern for value for money. The report also backs up the long standing finding of the London Assembly that the procurement processes were not open, fair or competitive.

“Dame Margaret Hodge is crystal clear when she states that the Mayor should not sign any taxpayer funded guarantees until it is confirmed that the private capital money to build the bridge has been secured by the Garden Bridge Trust.

“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.”

Hodge’s findings been welcomed by the Inner London Ramblers. The group are now urging the Mayor to withdraw his own and Transport for London’s (TfL) support for the project.

Inner London Ramblers opposes the plans for the Garden Bridge due to the disruption it will cause for people using the Thames Path and open green spaces on both sides of the river.

The organisation, which is part of the Ramblers, believes there are more worthwhile opportunities to invest public money that would generate the proposed benefits of the Garden Bridge.

Last summer, the Inner London Ramblers presented TfL with its wish list for improvements to the strategic footpath network across the city. This includes completing the Thames Path, opening up more walking routes around London, improving the London Loop and Capital Ring walks and prioritising the improvement of parks, squares and urban green spaces.

Vice chair of Inner London Ramblers, Phil Marson said: “Plans for this bridge represent a waste of public money. There are far more cost effective ways to get people walking, such as investing in existing parks and urban green spaces and completing the Thames Path through London.

“Rather than providing more resources and guarantees to another private tourist attraction in central London, we’d like the Mayor and TfL to work with us, and other organisations, to improve conditions for people accessing the city on foot, for all Londoners and visitors alike.”

Chief Reporter | Former news reporter on Daily Mail and Times, former editor in Edinburgh and Barnet. Sports editor and father for 15 years. Once made nine doormats for Harrods entrances. They lasted two years.

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Hodge tells London Mayor that Garden Bridge project should be scrapped