London’s new mayor has said going ahead with the £175 million Garden Bridge would be a better use of funds because £38 million of public money has already been spent
Speaking at his first Mayor’s Question Time event at the London Assembly today, Sadiq Khan said the Garden Bridge Trust had already received £24.25 million in Transport for London (TfL) funding out of £30 million in pledged financial aid, and £13.45 million of a £30 million Treasury aid package.
Khan said that £20 million of the TfL funding was a loan that would be repaid if the bridge completed, while the Treasury would receive £22 million in VAT, which would mean the public contribution to the project amounted to just £18 million.
‘If we were to cancel the project today, that full amount would have been spent for no benefit at all to Londoners,’ he said. ‘If we complete the Garden Bridge then not only will TfL be repaid for its loan, the government will receive VAT from the Garden Bridge Trust. It will result in a cost to taxpayers of £18 million.
‘From the point at which I became mayor, it was quite clear that it would cost Londoners more to cancel the building of the Garden Bridge than it would to finish building it’.
However Khan told assembly members he did have concerns about the procurement process for the bridge – the subject of AJ’s ongoing investigation – and had begun to ’look in detail’ at how the design contracts were awarded in 2013.
‘I’ll be deciding shortly on how I want to take this investigation further and to take forward any lessons learned for future projects,’ he said.
Documents revealed by the mayor last week show that the Garden Bridge has so far recieved £143 million in funding, much of it from anonymous donors.
Responding to a call from Labour Assembly member Tom Copley for further transparency on funding for the bridge, Khan said he would look into whether any of these anonymous donors worked for TfL or were seeking work from TfL.
The Garden Bridge Trust has so far received more than £100 million in private donations, 39 per cent of which is from anonymous sources including two companies which gave £5 million and £10 million respectively.
Khan told assembly members that in return for supporting the project, he had ‘insisted’ the Garden Bridge Trust make a series of amendments to its plans. They include a reduction in the number of days the completed bridge will be closed to the public for private events, and also a reduction in the number of hours for which it is shut.
A Garden Bridge spokeswoman welcomed Khan’s confirmation of support for the bridge’s completion, and said the trust shared his aspiration for greater public access.
’The public money that has been spent so far has been used by the trust to develop the scheme to the stage where we have appointed a contractor, detailed design work has taken place, and the bridge has secured planning permission,’ she said.
‘That work is crucial in enabling the project to secure large investment from the private sector.
‘The £37.7 million of public money that has been spent since the project began includes securing necessary consents, progressing detailed design work, undertaking ground and river investigations, professional fees and developing parts of the bridge off-site.’