There is no prospect of recovering almost £50million of taxpayers’ money already spent on the shelved Garden Bridge, London’s mayor today admitted
Speaking on his regular Q&A on LBC radio this morning (8 August), Khan said the deal struck by his predecessor Boris Johnson on the £200million scheme ‘beggared belief’.
The Heatherwick-designed bridge was originally set to be 100 per cent funded by private sector donors before Johnson and then Chancellor George Osborne agreed to commit £60million from the GLA and the Department for Transport.
In her recent report for the mayor, Margaret Hodge MP, the former chair of the Public Accounts Committee, concluded that £46.6m had already been spent on the scheme but that it was better value to write this off than continue with the project planned between Temple station and the south bank.
‘The money that Boris Johnson gave to the [Garden Bridge] Trust has been spent by the Trust,’ Khan said. ‘One of the criticisms of Dame Margaret Hodge in her report was the fact that there was no incentive for those who pledged money – these rich donors – to actually give the money over.
‘These were pledges not actual money. As a consequence of the deal made by the previous mayor, monies were given by him and by the government and that money has been spent.’
Host James O’Brien questioned why Khan was not pursuing Johnson and accused the Garden Bridge Trust - which is a registered charity - of ‘blowing £50million of taxpayers money with absolutely nothing to show for it’.
Making reference to the Business Secretary’s recent proposal on the former charity Kid’s Company, O’Brien asked whether trustees of the Garden Bridge Trust should also be banned from holding directorships in future.
Khan replied that this was a matter for the government to address, adding: ‘I echo the conclusions of Dame Margaret Hodge which is that serious questions should be asked about Boris Johnson, about processes that were used but also that there is no evidence of value for money in the money that was given to the Garden Bridge Trust by the government but also by the previous mayor’.
In February, a report by charities regulator the Charity Commission found that the Trust had acted in compliance with charity law and had the correct financial controls in place.
A Garden Bridge Trust spokesperson said: ’James O’Brien is wrong to accuse the Garden Bridge Trust of blowing taxpayers money with nothing to show for it. The money was all spent legitimately and as planned on detailed pre-construction plans as we have said on many occasions.
’It was always the intention to use the public investment first on preconstruction work and to kickstart the private fundraising drive. It is outrageous to make ill-informed comparisons to Kids Company when the Charity Commission has looked closely at the governance of the GBT. It concluded…that the trustees met their duties, financial management met the required standards, strategic leadership was provided, and that there was “robust and informed decision-making”.
’As the Mayor knows, we also dispute the conclusions of Dame Margaret Hodge’s findings and her selective use of evidence to support her own opinions. We regret that he chose to listen to her findings and to withdraw his previous support of the project.’