Taxpayers will pay for 81 per cent of the £53 million wasted on Thomas Heatherwick’s Garden Bridge, it has emerged
The revelations come after Transport for London (TfL) decided to hand over a final payment of £5.5 million to the charity behind the aborted project.
Despite repeated calls from leading politicians to halt this payment – part of an underwriting facility established by the Department for Transport (DfT) when the project was still live – TfL said it had no choice but to pay the money after obtaining legal advice from a QC.
This advice was commissioned after another QC, Jason Coppel, suggested that the trustees of the Garden Bridge Trust breached their legal duties to act with reasonable skill and care.
A TfL spokesperson said: ‘TfL has now concluded its review [of the GBT’s request for the underwriting payment] and confirmed that the final amount payable to the trust is £5.5 million. This will come from DfT funding, and include around £500,000 for future liabilities and contingency associated with the formal wind-up of the trust in accordance with Charity Commission requirements.
The total cost to the taxpayer will now be £43 million – split between £24 million from TfL and £19 million from the DfT
‘It is around 40 per cent lower than it could have been. This also means the final public sector spend will be around £43 million – split between £24 million from TfL and £19 million from the DfT.
‘As part of the review of the assessment, TfL also sought independent legal advice from a leading QC, following concerns raised about whether the trustees of the Garden Bridge Trust may have breached their legal duties. This legal advice found that there is no reasonable prospect of TfL (or DfT) being legally able to either withhold future payments or recover past payments, and this too has been published online as part of TfL’s wider transparency commitment. TfL also described the assessment process to its external auditors EY and has taken them through the evidence in detail.’
TfL director of city planning Alex Williams said: ‘As part of our continuing commitment to transparency, we have published the final financial breakdown for the Garden Bridge project, on behalf of the trust, as well as all evidence sought as part of this review.
‘We worked to ensure that the cost to the public sector has been kept to a minimum, and having carefully reviewed the Garden Bridge Trust’s request, we have now confirmed the final payment legally required under the terms of the underwriting agreement made by the government. This formally ends our involvement with the project.’
Tom Copley, Labour London assembly member
It’s galling to see the costs of Boris’ botched Bridge continuing to escalate for London’s taxpayers. David Cameron needs to answer why, in his eagerness to see Boris Johnson’s scheme go through, he intervened to overrule the advice of senior civil servants in order to extend the underwriting for the Bridge.
There’s a deep sense of unfairness about this whole ordeal – we have a QC stating that the Garden Bridge trustees may have breached their legal duties, which begs the question of whether morally, if not legally, the bill should land at their feet and not taxpayers’.
While this is government money, our London Assembly investigation into TfL’s role in this project is very much ongoing. We’ll be asking why TfL officials failed to veto additional funds when it was so plainly obvious that the Garden Bridge was flailing.