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Councillors demand parliamentary inquiry into Garden Bridge fiasco

Garden bridge revised
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Two Lambeth councillors have formally requested a parliamentary inquiry into the Garden Bridge debacle, while a local MP has suggested the bridge’s trustees should be barred from acting as trustees for other charities

The councillors both represent wards that would have been affected by the south landing site of the Thomas Heatherwick-designed bridge and both strongly opposed its development. They have written to the chairs of the parliamentary public accounts, treasury and transport select committees.

Their letter urged MPs to examine the lessons from the saga, which cost £47 million of taxpayers’ money before the project was abandoned in August.

The letter said: ‘In an environment of reduced public spending on many key services, it seems a reasonable requirement for Parliament to fulfil its democratic role and ensure that such a catastrophic failure, that is the Garden Bridge, is never allowed to happen again and that those responsible are scrutinised and held to account and that we learn from these mistakes.’

Authored by councillors Jen Mosley and Kevin Craig, it said that previous probes by the mayor of London, the National Audit Office and the Public Accounts Committee were limited by their scope.

It claimed that there were ‘still too many open questions, lessons to be learned and, critically, that no assessment of overall accountability for the failure of the project been provided to the public’.

The letter also said that senior figures who made decisions on funding for the bridge, including former chancellor George Osborne and former London mayor Boris Johnson, have not been held to account for their part in the doomed process.

In addition, the councillors said that ‘very little visibility has been provided’ as to what the £47 million of taxpayers’ money had been spent on.

Vauxhall MP Kate Hoey told the AJ: ‘There are many questions about the Garden Bridge which the local community in Waterloo need answers to.

‘It is quite right that the locally elected councillors have asked three parliamentary select committees to inquire into these matters.

‘I will be asking the Charity Commission to judge whether the trustees of the Garden Bridge Trust who have been responsible for allowing millions of pounds of public money to be wasted are fit and proper persons to be trustees on other charities in the future.

‘In my view they are not.’

In a statement to the AJ, a Garden Bridge Trust spokesperson said: ‘Councillors Mosley and Craig are opponents of the bridge and are entitled to their view.

‘However, the trust worked very closely with Lambeth Council on the development of the project’s plans and received planning permission from them in 2014.

‘There have already been several reports conducted into the project, including one by the Charity Commission which praised the trust for its “robust and informed decision-making”.’

  • 3 Comments

Readers' comments (3)

  • It would be easy to dismiss the concerns of the two councillors and the MP as just political opportunism, but how can it be when the issues at stake are so fundamental?
    If the Hon. Boris Johnson MP hadn't ignored Margaret Hodge's request to tell his side of the story we might be in a different place (and so, possibly, might he) - but we're not, and there are some very basic questions to be aired.
    Not least the way in which the planning decisions for something that would have had a major impact on the centre of what's still our capital city appear to have been left just to the two local councils - and Boris.
    Cronyism, corruption and the abuse of power and privilege are all suspects in this story.

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  • Mr Pevsner

    If this was on the Seine, Parisians would have stopped it in its tracks within months. In London there's an inability to corral and channel public opinion effectively - or perhaps we're just not really that interested.

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  • On what basis did Lord Davies and chums sign a £100m construction contract with Bouygues in March 2016, with a £15m cancellation clause, when the Garden Bridge Trust hadn't secured an interest in the land on which the bridge was to be constructed, nor had an implementable planning permission, nor had the capital to build the bridge? It's clear why they did, since signing the contract triggered the release of £30m+ of TfL funds to the Trust. But it was such an absurdly high risk as to be an unreasonable action; yet the Trust Directors chose to do so. In my opinion they were behaving unreasonably in doing so; and if Directors are behaving unreasonably their limited liability is withdrawn and they become PERSONALLY LIABLE for the reimbersement of those funds. Davies and chums owe the public purse at least £15m - but they are all rich and a quick whip round should sort that out.

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