A game of brinkmanship on the brink of collapse?
(Picture from Architect's Journal)
The Garden Bridge Trust accounts are finally published. There are significant concerns and a desperately needed call for the project to be stopped. Here's why:
1. GOING CONCERN
Does the Trust still have some petrol in the tank, as a result of standing down their contractors in July (it’s what remains of the £7 million that was triggered by the signing of the construction contract)? Is this how they think they can soldier on despite uncertainty about whether or not they are a going concern i.e. they can still just about meet their financial liabilities until @March 2017? But unless the money fairy arrives we think they will have to declare bankruptcy.
But they aren't doing that and are clearly playing brinksmanship with the government/London mayor Sadiq Khan- nobody has been willing to pull the plug on what is obviously a failing vanity project, and so they are forcing the government to either give them yet more public money or do what nobody has dared to do and close it down.
2. CAPITAL COSTS
They are out there trying to raise money for a project that is not only riddled with uncertainty but which – by their own admission – does not even have a cost ceiling. What kind of a maniac would donate any money under those circumstances?
3. THE “PIPELINE OF DONATIONS” ARGUMENT IS WEARING THIN
Despite all the usual talk about a “strong pipeline” of potential donors, they appear to have stalled at £129 million. To put this into perspective, when GBT trustee and former government Chief Construction Officer Paul Morrell wrote to Transport for London to inform them that they were going to sign the construction contract, he claimed that they’d raised £145 million and had a “strong pipeline” for raising the balance. It appears that that pipeline was so strong that they managed to lose £16 million. Then Lord Davies went on Newsnight in August 2016 and talked about the “strong pipeline” of donors and it appears that they haven’t raised a bean since then.
So this argument is starting to wear thin and it is about time that we start challenging the credibility of this claim.
4. RESPONSIBILITY OF THE MAYOR’S OFFICE
Most of the blame for this debacle must invariably fall at Boris Johnson’s feet, but Sadiq Khan is not exactly covering himself in glory. There appears to be a letter from The Mayor providing assurances that the Mayoral Guarantee will be honoured subject to some future review of the Operations and Maintenance Business Plan. Why they are leaving this review until the end of the process is mystifying. What kind of an organisation reviews a business plan AFTER they have let you spend £40 million!? It’s like a bank giving you the money to put a huge deposit on a house and THEN determining that you don’t qualify for the mortgage. It’s insane.
5. THE CONSTRUCTION CONTRACT
A large part of the reason that the Trust is in this financial mess is the fact that it prematurely signed a construction contract back in February 2016. That was the single most baffling decision of this whole saga and it was made with Transport for London’s approval. These accounts reveal that they are no closer today than they were a year ago to meeting the conditions laid out in their funding agreement. So Transport for London needs to explain why they released the funding when they did.