A London Assembly group investigating the failed £53m Garden Bridge has been snubbed by the trust which developed it after its chair said he had no ’faith in its objectivity’
The cross-party Garden Bridge Working Group, set up to examine the failed Thames crossing, invited the trust to attend a meeting at City Hall next week.
However its chair Mervyn Davies has declined, arguing the group was not ‘representative of the full membership’ of the Assembly, and its leading members had been ‘critical’ of the project.
In a letter sent to the group’s chair Tom Copley on April 5, Davies said the trust did want to see the ‘full story’ of the Garden Bridge emerge but said it suspected the group was trying to ‘perpetuate false allegations made in the past’.
Davies also suggested further investigation of the scandal was ‘unnecessary and wasteful’.
Copley said this afternoon that he was ‘dismayed’ by the response to the working group’s invitation while prominent Labour and Lib Dem MPs also strongly condemned the Trust’s stance.
‘This is an outrageous evasion of scrutiny which begs the question, what are they afraid of?’ Copley said. ‘Their refusal to attend simply makes us more determined to pursue transparency and accountability.’
Lib Dem leader Vince Cable accused Davies and the Trust of ‘simply running scared’.
He said: ’This is an absolutely pathetic excuse because the GLA is independent of the Mayor and represents a variety of different parties.’
Shadow secretary of state for transport Andy McDonald MP said: ’The Garden Bridge project is a scandal. Tens of millions of pounds of public money has been wasted so the least the Trust should do is make itself available to answer questions on how this was allowed to happen.’
In his letter, Davies referred to the recent Charity Commission report on the trust in defending its decision to sign a construction contract in early 2016 and also defended TfL’s decision to grant the trust £7m of government money immediately prior to the signing of the contract.
In his statement Copley said: ‘By failing to attend, the trust is evading important questions about why they chose to sign a construction contract without having secured the land on the south bank, nor the necessary planning consents.
‘That decision alone cost taxpayers £21 million. We believe explaining to Londoners what was, on the face of it, an incredibly foolish decision, is the very least they could do.’
‘Once again, TfL’s decision to farm this project out to an arms-length body has made it much harder for the London Assembly to hold those responsible for the project accountable. We are unable to compel the trust to appear before us – but we will submit written questions, with the expectation they answer those in a full and transparent manner.’
Last week the Lib Dem leader Vince Cable condemned scrutiny of the collapsed Garden Bridge after a letter emerged from TfL’s boss Mike Brown to the Charity Commission suggesting no grounds for further inquiry.
The Garden Bridge Trust is currently in the process of winding up.
The Mayor refused to comment.