A report commissioned by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan into the Garden Bridge has recommended that no more public money be put into the controversial project to avoid the taxpayer incurring further costs in the light of a £70 million shortfall in funding.
Written by former Labour minister Dame Margaret Hodge, the report was also highly critical of the procurement process for the bridge between the South Bank and Temple which was championed by the actress Joanna Lumley and was designed by Thomas Heatherwick.
The project proved controversial from the outset due to issues including the obstruction of views across the Thames, the fact that bicycles would be banned, and the regular closure of the structure for coporate events.
Hodge’s report did not seek to establish “whether the Garden Bridge is a good idea,” but did aim to “assess whether value for money was being secured from the public sector contribution and it examined the policies, procedures adopted to implement the Garden Bridge Project and the conduct of those involved.”
Findings included that costs had spiralled from an estimated £60 million to more than £200 million, and with two major private donors pulling out and pledges totalling £69 million, there was a £70 million funding shortfall.
The report also criticised former mayor Boris Johnson and said that decisions regarding the procurement process had been influenced more by electoral cycles than by value for money to the taxpayer.
It added that the two Transport for London (TfL) procurement processes for the project had not been “open, fair and competitive,” and that they “revealed systemic failures and ineffective control systems at many levels.”
It also found that the initial aim of building and maintaining the bridge with private money had been ditched and that “the Garden Bridge Trust’s finances are in a precarious state and many outstanding risks remain unresolved.”
Hodge said: “I did not seek to ask whether the concept of a garden bridge over the River Thames is a good idea.
“But my review has found that too many things went wrong in the development and implementation of the Garden Bridge Project.
“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.”
She said she would urge Khan ”not to sign any guarantees until it is confirmed that the private capital and revenue monies have been secured by the Garden Bridge Trust.”
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