Garden Bridge ‘should be scrapped’, finds Hodge report

7 Apr 17

The £200m Garden Bridge project does not offer taxpayers value for money and should be scrapped, a review by Margaret Hodge has concluded.

The report, commissioned by London mayor Sadiq Khan, published today, found the £60m cost to taxpayers for the scheme, which is significantly over-budget, could not be justified.

Hodge, who is the former chair of the Public Accounts Committee, said she found “too many things wrong” with 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,” she added.

“In the present climate, with continuing pressures on public spending, it is difficult to justify further public investment in the Garden Bridge.”

She urged the mayor to not to sign any guarantees until it is confirmed that the private capital and revenue monies have been secured by the Garden Bridge Trust.

The review found that decisions on the Garden Bridge were driven more by electoral cycles than value for taxpayers’ money.

The costs of the project have escalated from an early estimate of £60m to over £200m today.

Also, risks to the taxpayer have intensified, Hodge said, and the original ambition to fund the Garden Bridge through private finance has been abandoned. The Garden Bridge Trust has lost two major private donors and can count on pledges of only £69m, with no new pledges secured since August 2016.

A public sector contribution of £60m would still leave a gap in capital funding of at least £70m. Moreover, very little progress has been made on raising money to fund the ongoing maintenance of a completed bridge, the report said.

The two TfL procurement rounds for the scheme were deemed neither open nor fair, revealing systemic failures and ineffective control systems at many levels.

Hodge concluded that the Garden Bridge Trust’s finances are in a precarious state and many outstanding risks remain unresolved.

Responding to the report, Sadiq Khan confirmed that he would not invest any further public money in the proposed bridge, which would span the River Thames from Temple station to the South Bank, and had been scheduled to open in 2019. 

Meanwhile, John O'Connell, chief executive of the Taxpayers' Alliance, welcomed the findings. He said: "This utterly damning report proves what campaigners have been saying about this hugely expensive vanity project all along.

“There is absolutely no justification to carry on wasting taxpayers' money on this ludicrous scheme. Those who have managed to leave taxpayers out of pocket by allocating £60m to this project must hang their heads in shame, and the mayor must ensure that not a penny more of taxpayers' money is wasted on it.”

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