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Headline

Sadiq Khan slammed over £20m Garden Bridge ‘loan’ deal

Comment

The history of this 'loan' was that Lib Peck (having been foolishly suckered in by Lumley and Heatherwick personally lobbying her in Jan 2013, before any detail was understood) found herself under intense pressure from thousands of angry residents in Waterloo and across Lambeth asking why a Labour administration was supporting this huckster's folly? So in Sept 2015 she did what her senior officers should have done in Jan 2013, and used Lambeth Council's powers as landowner to block the whole project. Senior TfL officers reacted extremely aggressively with barely veiled financial threats to Lambeth... and cooked up the 'loan' fudge with a fearful and cornered Peck, and with Sadiq claiming some credit for the deal at the time (although Peck was obviously a bit miffed about that, especially as much of Lambeth Labour were Tessa supporters: Labour had yet to determine their candidate for the coming Mayoral election). So the ‘loan’ claim was very much a fudge for Peck to hide behind. It’s odd that Sadiq sought to align himself with it given the coming storm, about which he was clearly warned. But in my view Sadiq then played well the very difficult hand left him by his predecessor the huckster, and the huckster’s officers. The anti-Bridge campaign gave Sadiq all the information about the financial and political mess of this project 6 months before his election. He was told that underwriting the maintenance – a requirement of the planning permission – could ultimately cost the public purse £100m or more, and there would likely be significant funding gaps for construction. He could have – and with hindsight should have – announced during his campaign that he would not spend any more public money on underwriting the running costs. But The Standard was 200% behind the GB, and they were the most significant voice in determining the outcome of the Mayoral election, so it is understandable that he decided not to pick a fight with them over this folly. Alternatively, he could have commissioned a Hodge-like review on his first day in office, rather than wait 6 months. But that would have again put him on a collision course with The Standard. By waiting 6 months, which in reality cost little additional public money (since most of what was lost had already been committed by the huckster), he allowed it to be slowly hoist by its own hubristic petard, as the inability of the cavalier Garden Bridge Trust to raise anywhere near the necessary funds became ever more evident. Sadiq’s desire to take some of the credit for negotiating the ‘loan’ is probably the biggest stain on his copybook. Peck on the other hand mis-stepped all the way, led on by her own senior officer determined to get that Heatherwick feather in her cap. TfL's senior officers (and Mike Brown is still there) revealed themselves as overpaid glorified yes men, incapable of even acting as doorkeepers. And the huckster? Well, we all take the blame for his venal existence, as, ironically, he now shamelessly burns down the European bridge in order to further his march to the top.

Posted date

13 September, 2018

Posted time

1:03 pm

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