Garden Bridge hangs in balance as Sadiq Khan announces inquiry into project’s use of public money

An artist's impression of the proposed garden bridge. Credit: Heatherwick Studio
An artist’s impression of the proposed garden bridge. Credit: Heatherwick Studio

Backers of the controversial garden bridge project have been dealt a blow after the Mayor of London commissioned an inquiry to establish whether the imperilled scheme represents value for money.

Margaret Hodge, the ex-chair of the Public Accounts Committee who famously subjected executives from the likes of Google to painful grillings during her campaign against multinational tax avoidance, will conduct the review and publish a report on her findings.

In his first week as Mayor, Sadiq Khan pledged to look into decisions made around £40million in public funds already contributed to the project.

The proposed £185million footbridge linking Temple with the Southbank was the brainchild of actress Joanna Lumley but has been branded an expensive vanity project by its critics.

In a statement City Hall said the garden bridge review would look in detail at the procurement process around the project “and whether required standards have been met around transparency and openness going back to the beginning of the project”.

Mayor Khan said: “I’m clear that since the beginning of the project there hasn’t been the necessary standard of transparency and openness around the garden bridge.

“Nearly £40 million of public money has already been spent on the garden bridge project, and Londoners deserve far more information about the decisions that have been made around how their money is being spent.

“Margaret Hodge is hugely respected for her work scrutinising some of the UK’s largest and most high-profile publicly funded bodies.

“There’s no better qualified person to get to the bottom of the procurement process around the garden bridge, and establish whether Londoners have been getting value for money since the project began.

“I am absolutely clear that no new London taxpayers’ funds should be committed to the garden bridge, but I’m also determined that the garden bridge review helps the project achieve higher standards of accountability and transparency it has so far been lacking.”

Hodge said she was “delighted” to accept Mayor Khan’s offer and stressed it was “not a project that I have previously had an opinion on either for or against”.

But she added that “given the millions of pounds of public money allocated to the project, it is clear that there needs to be far more transparency around how funds are being spent”.

Earlier this month Mervyn Davies, the chairman of the Garden Bridge Trust, said the project would give a “huge economic boost” to the area of central London in which it would be built.

In an article in The Times he wrote: “Even the funding model is compelling in that it asks little of the taxpayer.

“With a groundswell of corporate support, the vast majority, in excess of 78 per cent, will be privately funded.”


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