Michael Ball thanks you but Boris Johnson stitches us all up
Michael was in the process of writing a note of thanks (below) to TCOS supporters when this happened:
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On Friday afternoon (5.6.15) Boris Johnson quietly slipped out a ‘guarantee’ for the GLA underwriting all of the maintenance costs of the Garden Bridge!
In so doing he has committed Londoners to a bill of up to £3.5m a year or over £90m over the lifetime of the bridge – on top of the £60m of public funds already committed.
This took us by surprise. It is obviously deeply questionable to sink up to £150m of public funds into a private bridge. We thought he would pause. It is equally questionable to display such largesse when the GLA are still waiting for answers on the pretence of a procurement process which was used to hire Heatherwick and the team after the event, some of whom were personal friends of the Mayor. The costs are so high precisely because this is a private vanity project which has avoided public standards of scrutiny.
It is also politically foolish of Boris to give this commitment given the frequent statements he has made that no more public funding will go into the Garden Bridge. He has mortgaged £90m of London’s future funding on the very day after George Osborne cut Transport for London’s funding by £31m.
The Mayor’s office didn’t make any kind of announcement or press statement about one of his most expensive days at the office – wonder why? Because he knows there will many more questions of his conduct.
We will be taking legal advice next week as to how we can challenge Boris’ decision in the High Court, as we promised when we withdrew the earlier case. In our view he is acting irrationally, since the rationale of his Business Case to support the bridge is that a private Garden Bridge is the best option because it is funded privately… but now it’s not, since more than £150m will come from the public sector, which dwarves the £65m of private pledges the Trust has cobbled together.
The Mayor pretends this guarantee won’t cost Londoners a penny – it won’t be called upon, he claims in his decision notice. But what business chief or philanthropist would be stupid enough to put money into a project which Boris has guaranteed to fully fund? His decision defies both logic and prudence.
We hope you will continue to support us as we take up the challenge against Boris in the courts and stop this wretched garden bridge.
GARDEN BRIDGE UPDATE – 4th June 2015
Things have tectonically shifted in the last few days on the Garden Bridge.
Firstly, a couple of months ago we applied to Lambeth Council to designate the grassed public open space where the bridge would land as an Asset of Community Value – and last week this was recognised and registered by the Council!.
This gives the community the right to bid for the site when a sub-lease is sought by the Garden Bridge Trust, and at minimum forces a 6 month delay on any sale. This seriously delays and potentially blocks the Garden Bridge Trust’s ability to buy the site from Coin Street Community Builders. Please see the letter attached below.
Secondly we believe we have the Trust and Boris in a legal headlock on the maintenance funding on the bridge: in a court order which has been agreed by Lambeth, the Garden Bridge Trust have to come up with £90m bond or a legal instrument or guarantee that will cover the £3.5m annual maintenance for the next 125 years, and they will not be allowed to build the bridge without it. Westminster Council asked for something similar last December, but Westminster could vary the terms. The agreement we have come to cannot be varied by the Council and the Trust will be in contempt of court if they attempt to build a bridge without fulfilling it.
What does this mean? The Garden Bridge Trust has not been able to raise significant additional private funds over the past year, and are still £50m short to build the bridge. It is extremely unlikely that they will be able to raise a further £90m to use as a bond for the ongoing maintenance, and their only realistic hope will be to persuade Boris Johnson as Mayor of London to underwrite the project. But it would be illogical and unreasonable for Boris to underwrite it, since the news that the public purse is going to pick up the tab will deter any further private donations – which would in turn undermine Boris’ very reason for supporting the bridge with public funding in the first place. If Boris attempts to make a decision to underwrite the bridge with public money we will launch a new legal challenge.
In order to get the Court Order in place I have agreed to stop the Judicial Review scheduled for next week in the High Court, and Lambeth Council has agreed to pay all of our costs – which means that we have a healthy fighting fund to launch a fresh legal challenge against it if necessary. It is disappointing not to have our day in court on this vanity project, but it was a difficult case to win, and had we lost we would not have achieved the Court Order which I believe will become an insurmountable hurdle for building a bridge, support for which is rapidly dwindling. Yesterday GLA members at City Hall passed a motion demanding Boris withdraw even the promise of £30m of capital funding which he has previously made – follow the link to yesterday’s BBC report: http://tinyurl.com/nsmbfrw .
Our supporters are growing all the time – see the Observer article http://tinyurl.com/oej3abd – following the very well attended public meeting last month – here is short trailer of the event http://tinyurl.com/proe6m8 We are also planning a number of other activities and events which will contribute to the termination of this vanity project – if you would like to be involved, please do contact me.
Finally, a very big thank you to everyone who has contributed to the funding for this challenge. We will be writing to everyone who has left a contact and, wherever possible we shall refund what we can making allowances for the non-refundable costs of the legal challenge – but I hope that many of you will allow us to keep it in reserve for any further action we may need to take over the coming months to ensure that the Garden Bridge is never built.
All the best