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Garden Bridge Trust chair slams ‘one-sided’ Hodge report

Garden bridge revised

In an interview on Radio 4’s Today programme this morning, Garden Bridge Trust chairman Mervyn Davies criticised Margaret Hodge MP’s report into the Garden Bridge’s procurement as ‘full of errors’ and ‘very one-sided’

Last week Hodge published her report on the controversial bridge’s procurement last week, concluding that London mayor Sadiq Khan should cancel the project and accept that £46 million of public money had been lost.

When asked by presenter John Humphreys for his views on the report, Davies said: ‘I don’t agree with it. I take issue with a number of facts,’ adding that it was based on a ‘selective use of evidence’.

‘It’s a very one-sided report, it’s full of errors,’ he said. But when pressed by Humphreys to specify the errors, Davies failed to come up with a clear answer.

When asked where the money is coming from to pay for the project, Davies denied it would be coming from the taxpayer. The £185 million project, which could rise to £200 million, has received £30 million from Transport for London and £30 million from government.

Davies insisted that the Garden Bridge Trust would be able to raise the rest of the money via ‘philanthropists and corporates’, and that £70 million had been pledged. ‘We are highly confident we can raise the money,’ he said.

He revealed that the trust put fundraising on hold while Hodge was undertaking her review, ‘which took longer than expected’, according to Davies. Khan commissioned the review in September.

After Humphreys pointed out that no new pledges had been received since August, Davies insisted that the trust had a pipeline of donors who would be willing to commit funds now the review has been published. 

As the AJ reported yesterday, the trust is soon to enter into discussions with the mayor of London on the mayoral guarantee. Khan has yet to decide whether TfL should commit to underwriting the maintenance costs of the bridge.

At the end of the interview, Davies said: ‘We are determined to make [The Garden Bridge] happen. It is a wonderful gift from philanthropists and corporates to London. I look forward to walking across the bridge. It will be a magical gift to the nation.’

Mervyn Davies is chairman of Corsair Capital, a private equity firm specialising in financial services. He was minister for trade, investment, small business and infrastructure from 2009 to 2010.

Listen to the interview


Readers' comments (9)

  • By rubbishing Margaret Hodge the good Baron Davies might be treading on very thin ice indeed.
    In his forthcoming discussion with Sadiq Khan on whether the Mayor will commit to funding the garden bridge's maintenance costs from the public purse I trust that Baron Davies will be able to reassure the Mayor that the funds 'philanthropists and corporates in London' are providing are all clean money.
    I'm not suggesting that it's Russian mafia money (though that would be good to know), but that some of it might be proceeds from the 'grey economy' of supposedly legal avoidance of taxes - the 'Sir Philip Green' syndrome, that favours private and corporate wellbeing over and above tedious stuff like the NHS and free education.
    And if Baron Davies really does believe that there has been 'selective use of evidence' in the Hodge report, he should have a wee chat with his pal Boris Johnson - who is presumably still a staunch believer in the project, having done so very much to promote it while he was mayor - about that hon gentleman's apparent refusal to offer any evidence whatsoever.
    And talking of the 'great and the good', there's seemingly no news of what (if any) evidence another participant - the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne - could or couldn't provide for this report.

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  • It is worth remembering that Margaret Hodge presided over the procurement system for the London Olympic stadium which successfully eliminated all competition so that there was only one team allowed to bid. The mania to dislodge the appointed designers for the Garden Bridge via an unnecessary competition is typical of a mindset more interested in bean-counting than in creative ideas. The Hodge report would be more impressive if it proposed ways of recovering public investment, and funding future maintenance programmes. I repeat my suggestion that access to the Garden Bridge should be via Oyster Card, thereby emphasizing the public aspect of this project, raising money from people who actually use it, rather than the bores who moan about it from their blinkered and dreary sidelines.

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  • If the idea that "access to the Garden Bridge should be via Oyster Card" should be seen as a good way of "emphasizing the public aspect of the project", then why not make access to ALL of London's bridge's be via Oyster Card?.........actually, while we're at it, let's make access to all of London's streets and public parks be via Oyster card.......

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  • Paul Finch is missing the point. This scheme has proved uniquely divisive, and staggeringly dishonest too, both in terms of its back-doors procurement and its ongoing presentation by the Garden Bridge Trust and its supporters. Even if it were some sort of masterpiece, it's so compromised by its own history that it shouldn't be built. Except that it's no masterpiece - only a clunky, flashy and intrusive gimmick.

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  • The blindness of idiots maybe beguiling when opinion pieces in this age of fake news are so prevalent, but uninformed commentary needs to be challenged and facts checked. As a practice shortlisted in the Olympics, the processes and procedures of the Public Contract Regulations were followed (unfortunately we did not build out). The Garden Bridge is not comparable.
    The arguments being placed in the above comment typically shows little immersive understanding of the inquiry remit, the procurement, or the damning findings across all areas investigated in the Margaret Hodge report.
    It is also dismissive of the real concerns and costs to those other professionals in these fake competitive procedures.
    But as is so often the case with the proponents of the Garden Bridge any criticism of it has to be framed with insults and accusations. “…the bores who moan about it from their blinkered and dreary sidelines” as if this schoolboy bullying might somehow justify poorly conceived, procured and bad design having minimal public benefit.
    With over £11m of public money expended on design fees and £37m already spent overall on a project that has not yet discharged its planning conditions nor secured the land on which to build simply in my view compounds this negligence. This adds to the previous mayor’s legacy of ill-conceived and now cancelled London buses and illegal water cannon.
    It is the sad truth however that such criticism comes from those unhappy insecure camp followers having least skill, no capacity to design nor any interest in genuine progress who by such vacuous expression endeavour to maintain their fringe status.

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  • I hear rumours that a design team has been procured to build a weirdly-shaped and massively inefficient footbridge across Paul Finch's back garden even though he might not think he needs such a thing. This is estimated to cost £40m that will be charged to Mr Finch. I hope Mr Finch doesn't get some sort of mania to dislodge the appointed designers for his new Garden Bridge via an unnecessary competition as this would just be typical of a mindset more interested in bean-counting than in creative ideas.

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  • Unpalatable as it will be for himself and others, it is time for Mervyn Davies to accept that a bridge in this location is unnecessary, and putting a garden on a bridge is no more than a willful novelty which will add nothing to the enjoyment of the existing public realm. Clearly he, Boris Johnson and others see no shame in the duplicitous procurement process and the wasteful use of public money by the signing of construction contracts before finance is agreed and land procured. However it is now time for them to call a halt to this unwanted poorly designed frippery which when viewed from the shore would desecrate views of the capital's great historic river.

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  • Paul Finch is right. This absurd project must be cancelled and public money recovered. Sue those that took us all for this ride. There must be enough evidence available by now.
    ( as a foot note - TH has not built a single bridge, that mechanical toy in Paddington does not fit into a definition of what a bridge is...)

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  • For Cezary Bednarski: We haven't seen anything yet - Thomas Heatherwick has got his hands on the grade 2 listed Coal Drops Yard at King's Cross and - under the guise of restoring the buildings - is in the process of messing with their form by twisting the roofs to create a grotesque bit of 'look at me' nonsense in the name of retail development.
    Just as at Paddington basin, a property developer has been happy to indulge Thomas's whims - and at Kings Cross the planning authority didn't challenge the design, and the Mayor (Boris Johnson) didn't call it in.

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