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Select committee urges Garden Bridge funding probe

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The chair of Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee has called on the NAO to investigate the Treasury’s £30 million contribution to the Garden Bridge

In a letter to Labour MP Gareth Thomas (see attached), committee chair Meg Hillier wrote: ‘I have requested that the NAO looks into the DfT’s rationale for contributing towards the Garden bridge and inquires how the DfT maintains oversight of its £30 million funding for the Garden Bridge.

‘They will report to me any concerns which may arise from their inquiries.’

The letter was a response to Thomas, who had written to Hillier to highlight Transport for London’s ongoing inquiry into of the procurement process behind the bridge and questioning the Treasury’s own £30 million contribution to the project.

TFL’s own inquiry was announced in June following a series of investigative stories by the Architects’ Journal.

In December 2013, the government announced grant funding for the Thomas Heatherwick-designed link as part of the government’s National Infrastructure Plan, which would be added to contributions from private investors and another £30 million from Transport for London (TfL).

A spokesman for the public accounts committee said chair Meg Hillier has raised the issue as part of regular correspondence with the NAO.

He said: ‘In this case, she has asked the NAO to make inquiries of the Department for Transport (DfT) as to the rationale for awarding the £30 million grant and what oversight arrangements it has in place to ensure the money is properly spent.

‘If these initial inquires generate any concerns, the NAO or the PAC may consider launching a wider investigation resulting in a public report.’

He added that the committee had no remit to investigate the £30 million pledged by TfL to the project.

Meanwhile, the London Assembly is planning to hear evidence relating to concerns over the procurement of the project first raised by the AJ following a series of requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOI).

An AJ investigation found that at £173,000, competition winner Thomas Heatherwick’s initial fee estimate was more than three times that of Wilkinson Eyre’s £49,939 and more than 11 times Marks Barfield’s £15,125.

Other correspondence unearthed by the AJ under FOI included an exchange between chancellor George Osborne and London Mayor Boris Johnson in which Johnson said he had serious misgivings about the cost to taxpayer of constructing and maintaining the bridge.

However Osborne – who described the project as ‘iconic’ – encouraged Johnson to make TfL’s £30 million contribution a grant rather than a loan, and said the mayor should underwrite maintenance costs if private support could not be found, describing it as a ‘small funding requirement’.

Previous story (AJ 03.07.15)

Chancellor urged mayor to fund Garden Bridge

 

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Readers' comments (3)

  • "It is on these conditions the Mayor has granted the guarantee, which has been shared with the City of Westminster and Lambeth Council." Garden Trust.

    This could be a bit misleading. Both Westminster and Lambeth made damn sure they wouldn’t cop any of the costs. They gave planning permission on condition that the garden trust got a cast-iron guarantee from some richly-endowed body that the maintenance costs would be met in perpetuity and they wouldn't find themselves holding the baby if it all went pear-shaped. Boris stepped in to pledge our money in perpetuity if nobody else is found. So far none has come forward.

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  • What chicanery.
    Let's just hope this enables a start to be made on getting rid of this potentially monstrous imposition on the wonderful views, from the Thames, of our fine capital city.

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  • The history of this project surely demonstrates that the power of patronage, and privilege, are thriving - and seemingly harder to challenge in our supposedly more enlightened and democratic society than in the days of the Royal Fine Art Commission.
    CABE has come and gone, and we apparently have the Design Council to look to for guidance in such matters these days - they say that they conducted a design review at the pre-planning stage, but that this is not in the public domain.
    So, now we have a Chancellor of the Exchequer energetically promoting what he considers to be an 'icon' , and in the same breath preaching a rigorous (iconic?) brand of national austerity.
    He seems to think that he's inherited the mantle of the RFAC - and that deserves energetic challenge, Mr Osborne needs holding to account..

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