Heat continues to build on Conservative leadership contender Boris Johnson over his role in the failed Garden Bridge project while he was Mayor of London
Johnson – now seen as the most likely replacement for Theresa May when she steps down as prime minister following Brexit negotiations – has been urged to stump up £3,200 to repay a donor to the doomed Thames crossing for a game of table tennis that never happened.
The former mayor had offered the sporting contest in return for a donation to his much-loved Garden Bridge project, but didn’t come good on the promise, leaving Transport for London to repay the sum.
In total taxpayers are expected to shell out £43 million for the unbuilt Thomas Heatherwick-designed crossing, which was abandoned by current mayor Sadiq Khan and finally scrapped when the trust behind it wound up in August 2017.
A letter from London Assembly Garden Bridge working group chair Tom Copley to Johnson today said: ‘As we unpick the mess left behind, we have uncovered that the taxpayer has been asked to pay back £3,200 for a game of table tennis with you (or “whiff-whaff” as you call it) that was bought by Garden Bridge donors.
‘Due to your failure to honour the game, and because the Garden Bridge Trust folded, taxpayers have had to pick up the tab. This will sting taxpayers already angry at the amount of money – which could have been allocated to more vital needs – that has been squandered.
‘When you advocate so strongly for a project which bears such a significant cost to the public purse, you bear significant accountability. Therefore, I urge you once again to do the right thing and pay this £3,200 back to Londoners.’
Johnson’s role on the Garden Bridge continues to haunt him some three years after he left City Hall. It emerged last week that the former mayor’s own monitoring officers were worried about a request for extra Garden Bridge funding made shortly before he left the post.
Transport for London commissioner Mike Brown told the London Assembly Garden Bridge working group that alarm bells had sounded following a plea to release a ‘significant’ sum of money for the doomed project just weeks before the mayoral election on 5 May 2016.
Johnson was also among 30 politicians and transport bosses last week ordered to hand over email correspondence relating to the canned project.