Anderson Dan's comments
I'm not unsympathetic to Paul Finch's 'dead horse' point. Those of us that opposed the project are going to have to decide what is that we want from this prolonged autopsy -- and Boris Johnson's head on a pike seems a bit unrealistic.
Personally, I'm willing to call it a day if and when someone (anyone) at TFL or the Garden Bridge Trust offers up a fulsome, bullshit-free and preferably contrite explanation of why they awarded a £100 million contract in February 2016, when the Trust still hadn't secured the land, planning or nearly enough money to complete the project. I'd settle for an explanation of why they didn't trigger the contract's break-clause in April 2016, when they were bleeding fees and going backwards on the land, planning and money.
For all the flogging, it's quite extraordinary that that still hasn't happened. The horse isn't quite dead yet.
Phil - It is partly the termination payment to the contractor and presumably the settling of final invoices from consultants. But back when they were spending with abandon, they dipped into private donor funds that were conditional on the project starting construction. So those donors need to be paid back.
Archeps — Good questions. Don’t know about the first, but there is some information on the second.
The truth is that most of the ‘private’ money that was raised was actually in the form of pledges from other grant-giving trusts and foundations. So it was never ‘new’ investment into London — it was just cannibalising funds that would have been spent anyway on other worthy projects.
Because those trusts and foundations (and a few corporate sponsors) knew what they were doing, they made their grants conditional on the project starting construction. To the extent that the Garden Bridge Trust spent any of that ‘private’ money, it now has to be paid back to the donors — hence the outstanding £9 million claim that is expected by TFL.
Incidentally, the grants from TFL had similar conditions attached and no more than £16 million should ever have been put ‘at risk’ before construction started. It is only because TFL kept buckling to the Trust’s demands and waiving its own funding conditions that we are now in this mess.
There can be any number of reasons why an application to the Heritage Lottery Fund might be rejected, but the fact that the museum doesn't charge for admission is almost certainly not one of them. That would normally count as a point in its favour.
The sad truth is simply that fewer people are playing the lottery, there is less money to distribute and the fund is hugely oversubscribed. The Museum could have done everything right and just had the bad luck of submitting in a round that was full of very strong applications.
Unfortunate, but it happens. I'm sure they will dust themselves off, regroup and try again.
Mr Finch is not wrong that it was an impressive achievement for the Trust to raise £4 million, after the project had become so toxic in the media and so radioactive to sponsors.
But that just makes it all the more baffling that they didn’t stop — or at least pause — the project so much sooner than they did. The Trust still had a £55 million mountain to climb and everything was moving in the wrong direction. They were no closer to securing the land, planning authorities were stalling, the GLA refused to issue the Guarantee as written, and they were losing more funders than they were gaining.
One consultancy after another told them the same thing that Mr Finch says above: that their business model was not sustainable unless they reversed some of the pledges on charging, naming rights and closures that they’d already made to get planning. As the minutes clearly demonstrate, they were absolutely prepared to consider those things — they just weren’t prepared to say it publicly.
There were break clauses in the construction contract that allowed them to pause the project at any time to stop the bleeding and put it back on solid ground. But as Ms Smith rightly points out, there was not single voice of doubt or caution on the Board. They just pulled every political lever in their reach to access more public money in a vain attempt to spend their way through the problem.
Whatever one thinks of the design or the merits of the project, it’s hard to argue that there wasn’t a breakdown in governance and serious questions to ask about the Trust’s management and the professional advice it was given.
The London Assembly session with Boris Johnson also showed how lies -- when doggedly stuck to and mutually reinforced -- can so easily come to resemble some sort of truth.
The only AM that really put Johnson on the ropes was Tom Copley, who pushed and pushed on TFL/GLA's handling of some key conditions that allowed the Trust to prematurely sign a £100 million construction contract.
To get out of the corner he was in, Johnson kept quoting from Mike Brown's evasive letter to the London Assembly which suggested (wrongly) that the Trust had satisfied all its funding conditions. But when Brown was previously pressed on this issue by Margaret Hodge, he conceded that the Trust should have been stopped from signing the contract, but he was under intense pressure from the Mayor's office to drive it forward: "Well, the Mayor is my boss, whoever the Mayor is, being honest."
So we are just going around in circles. Brown points to Boris; Boris points to Brown.
And everyone gets away with it.
Everything that Michael said is spot on.
Johnson has been in that chair before and -- with a couple of notable exceptions -- the Assembly has mostly let him get away with lie after lie after lie. Here's hoping that the Foreign Secretary is genuinely held to account over his part in this fiasco and that it doesn't degenerate into another grandstanding episode of "the Boris Show".