Finally the controversial plan of building a bridge across the river in Central London is going to be scrapped. The findings by a Senior Labour MP, Margaret Hodge who formerly chaired the public accounts committee, could spell the end for the project.
The projects already lose a lot of public cash on the project inspired more by politics than for value money.
Last year mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, commissioned the committee to look into the project that whether it gave value for money for the public funds. She was not asked to consider whether the Thomas Heatherwick-designed Bridge was a good idea in itself.
Her report points out the multiple failings from the start point, arguing that the business case for the bridge, run by a charity reliant on corporate donations, was always weak, and the purpose of the bridge had been confused and unclear.
Let have a look what the report suggests:
The tendering process, under which Heatherwick’s team was chosen to design the structure and engineering company Arup selected to lead the construction, was “not open, fair or competitive”, Hodge found.
“Decisions on the garden bridge were driven by electoral cycles rather than value for money,” she said of the project, begun under Boris Johnsonwhen he was London mayor. Johnson declined several requests to speak to Hodge for the report, she said.
“From its inception, when there was confusion as to its purpose, through a weak business case that was constructed after contracts had been let and money had been spent, little regard has been had to value for money.”
The costs to the taxpayer of a link originally intended to be built solely from private donations had increased numerous times, Hodge said.
“What started life as a project costing an estimated £60m is likely to end up costing more than £200m,” she wrote.
The Garden Bridge Trust, the charity leading the project, had lost major donors and only secured £69m in private pledges, leaving a gap of at least £70m, Hodge found, with no new pledges obtained since August 2016.
She recommended that Khan refuse to give any more funding guarantees until the trust had secured enough private finance, and said it may be better if the project were scrapped.
The trust’s recent accounts showed its finances were “in a precarious state”, the report said, and public support appeared to be ebbing away, making it even less likely new pledges could be found.
“The project has already used £37.4m of public money and the agreement to underwrite cancellation costs by the government could bring the bill to the taxpayer up to £46.4m,” the report said.
“I believe it is better for the taxpayer to accept the loss than to risk the additional demands if the project proceeds. In the present climate, with continuing pressures on public spending, it is difficult to justify further public investment in the garden bridge.”