Charity begins at home - unless you are one of the privileged few
This week the Charity Commission reported that the Garden Bridge Trust (GBT) had not acted improperly outside the commission's guidelines but that "the regulator would have expected a fuller description of how these funds could be used with greater detail on how the charity would meet its liabilities in the event of closure."
The Trust was also flagged up on how they "could make improvements to their annual reporting, to provide greater insight to the progress made and challenges addressed in the last financial year" and that they "did not fully explore the opportunities to compare the critical paths of other comparable infrastructure projects and thus better enable themselves to assess project risk."
GBT chair Lord Mervyn Davies chose to lap up the report as a glowing endorsement of their handling of the situation but the fact remains that so much of the controversy surrounding the Garden Bridge is there for a good reason. One trustee in particular, Joanna Lumley has consistently misled the public with claims of the bridge being a public space (it would be totally private) and that it is wanted by "many millions" of people (?) who aren't as vocal as the "2000 or 3000" opponents. Perhaps she should take note of the 21,000+ names on the online petition which doesn't include 6000+ names on a paper petition that we compiled in 2014/15. So perhaps the Charity Commission should be made aware of this kind of questionable trustee behaviour - contact them here if you find anything that is contrary to charity guidelines for trustees.
Meanwhile, the Trust have still to raise £55m-£70m and have yet to acquire land deals on either side of the river yet Lord Davies recklessly says they would start construction without all the funds in place. Dame Margaret Hodge is still conducting her review of the value for money case for the Garden Bridge as well as the procurement processes. The Port of London Authority haven't obtained a guarantee from the Greater London Authority in the event of a half-built bridge; Westminster council haven't published any revisons after the call-in to stop Temple Tube Station roof from being developed upon and sub-leased to the GBT - and the Trust still haven't produced a credible business plan to explain how they are going to raise £3.1m each year for ongoing maintenance costs without calling upon the public guarantee that London Mayor Sadiq Khan needs to sign in order to underwrite the bridge.
You can question Sadiq Khan at People's Question Time in Sutton this evening about his contradictory stance on the Garden Bridge. Tell him NOT to sign the public guarantee that the GBT needs in order to start construction. If he does, then he would be committing more public money that he is responsible for, to a group of private developers who cannot raise enough money to build their uncalled for, unwanted, unnecessary folly. Details of tonight's meeting (Thursday 2nd March) can be found here: https://www.london.gov.uk/events/2017-03-02/peoples-question-time-sutton. Write to Sadiq here email@example.com
In the meantime, a senior civil servant from the Treasury has written to the chair of the Public Accounts Committee explaining that the case for the Garden Bridge is weaker now than it was in 2014 and a top criminal lawyer has raised serious concerns over the Garden Bridge contest. There is very little in the news to suggest that the project is growing in popularity. It's time for this vanity project to be put out of its (and our) misery.