The former London mayor was grilled by the London Assembly last week over the Garden Bridge fiasco. Will Hurst examines the veracity of his key claims
The Garden Bridge ‘had secured every relevant planning permission’.
FALSE Not only was the Garden Bridge Trust never able to strike a deal with Coin Street Community Builders, the leaseholder of the bridge’s southern landing point in Lambeth, but its planning permissions from Lambeth and Westminster councils were dependent on the mayor’s maintenance guarantee, which was never finalised.
The project was rushed. Johnson heavily implied this when he said: ‘If we’d had our time again, we would have started it well before the Olympics, done the planning and procurement at a decent pace and … had a lot more time to deliver it.’
TRUE, BUT NEEDS CONTEXT Johnson was looking for ‘legacy projects’ in his first term but didn’t pick up on the Garden Bridge until Joanna Lumley wrote to him to pitch the idea in May 2012, just after his second election victory. Given how controversial the project became, it was always going to be a major challenge to begin construction before Johnson left office in 2016.
The procurement process was conducted in a spirit of ‘complete openness’.
FALSE Notwithstanding the AJ’s many revelations about pre-contest lobbying, scoring and procedural irregularities and the fact that Thomas Heatherwick advised TfL on which procurement route to use, Johnson is out of step here with all expert opinion including TfL’s own audit committee and its external auditor Ernst & Young (EY).
Current mayor Sadiq Khan ‘blew hot and cold’ on the Garden Bridge
TRUE In withdrawing his backing from the Garden Bridge last April, Khan went full circle from being a Garden Bridge opponent while campaigning for election to being a supporter for almost a year in office and then an opponent once again following publication of the Hodge report.
The loss of close to £50 million of taxpayers’ money on the Garden Bridge is Khan’s fault because he cancelled it.
FALSE While Khan would have saved money by cancelling the project on his first day in office, he never committed any ‘new’ money to the project and it was Johnson who presided over the allocation of a total of £60 million to the scheme. Critics would also cite the ‘sunk cost fallacy’ in defending Khan’s decision to scrap the Garden Bridge despite the money already spent on it; in other words the need to avoid throwing good money after bad.