Vauxhall MP Kate Hoey joined Bishop's Ward councillors Jen Mosley and Kevin Craig in writing to London mayor Sadiq Khan warning of the risks to Transport for London (TfL) funding, given that the Garden Bridge Trust is still £55m-£70m short and have no credible business plan going forward.
Kate highlighted the fact that TfL had failed to report on the financial and strategic risks to the project, and that the TfL Board had never been asked to approve it:
“We are becoming increasingly alarmed by what we perceive to be TfL’s lack of appropriate controls and governance arrangements in the event the project were to go ahead.
“Very limited information was presented to the TfL Board on the Garden Bridge from the procurement of the project onwards, despite the fact that it is required to sign off any project over £25m.
“There is nothing in the Board papers acknowledging the strategic risks of this project moving forwards, despite the fact that all projects with an estimated cost of over £50m should undergo Integrated Assurance Reviews”
The letter refers to last year’s National Audit Office report which identified a “pattern of behaviour” by the Trust, which “repeatedly approached the government to release more of its funding… when it encounters challenges.”
The Garden Bridge Trust recently published accounts which revealed they were not a going concern and had managed to raise only £13m over the previous 18 months. Nevertheless, Mervyn Davies, Chairman of the Trust, has publicly stated that they would begin construction of the Garden Bridge despite having a £55m funding gap.
Apart from the funding shortfall, the Trust has been unable to secure land deals on the North or South Bank where the bridge should land, and have yet to meet a key condition on the planning permission which requires the Mayor of London to provide a guarantee underwriting the bridge’s £3m annual running costs. None of these risks have been reported to the TfL Board.
The Garden Bridge is an inherently risky project with a very high price tag. Londoners will be astonished to realise that TfL doesn’t have any control over spiralling costs or the risks to public funds if construction begins before the £55m funding gap is filled.
TfL is the single biggest spender of public money in the country - and is it any wonder when such basic risks are not flagged up? The GBT have spent £40m of public funding so far without a spade in the ground to show for it.
Sadiq Khan should do what 71% of Londoners want according to recent polls - cancel the project and try to claw back the public money already wasted on this unwanted frivolity.