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Thursday24 August 2017

Mayor of London orders inquiry into Garden Bridge

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Margaret Hodge to conduct £25,000 investigation

The mayor of London Sadiq Khan has ordered a review of the £185 million Garden Bridge, to be conducted by Margaret Hodge.

Hodge, a former architecture minister, built a fearsome reputation in her five years as chair of the Public Account Committee.

Khan has asked her to look in detail at whether value for money has been achieved from taxpayers’ £60 million contribution to the project. It was due to start on site this year but which is being delayed by negotiations over the lease of land on the South Bank needed for its construction.

Hodge will also investigate the work of TfL, the GLA and other relevant authorities going back to when the Heatherwick Studio-designed project was first proposed.

Once the review is completed, a report will be produced for the 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.”

He said there was “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”.

He added: “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.”

The Garden Bridge Review will cost up to £25,000, and the GLA and TfL will provide other non-financial support, including information going back to the beginning of the project, and interviews with staff.

Hodge said: “It’s not a project that I have previously had an opinion on either for or against, but 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.

“The planned bridge is a major project in an iconic part of London, and there are clearly questions that remain unanswered around issues like procurement.”

The Garden Bridge Review will assess the findings of a number of other previous reviews including TfL’s internal audit and the National Audit Office investigation into the Department for Transport’s role. The Charity Commission is also currently deciding whether to launch an investigation after a complaint from a local MP.

Tory Assembly Member Andrew Boff said Khan should just scrap the bridge rather than “waste time and money” on a review.

“Personally I would scrap the Garden Bridge tomorrow if I were mayor,” he said. “The London Assembly has closely examined every aspect of the Garden Bridge project and the procurement process was never the real issue.

“Ultimately we’re left with a mayor who was originally opposed to the Garden Bridge, then in favour so long as no more taxpayer money was spent on it, now he has chosen to waste time and money on a review.

“Given he has held every position possible on the Garden Bridge he should just pick one and finally make a decision.”

Terms of reference for Garden Bridge Review include

-          To assess the public sector contribution to the Garden Bridge project and whether value for money has been achieved.

-          To investigate the conduct of Transport for London, the Greater London Authority and other relevant authorities in regard to the Garden Bridge project from first proposal to date.

-          To achieve this through assessing the findings of previous reviews, interviewing current and former GLA/TfL staff and other stakeholders, and investigating more deeply as required.

-          To set out any lessons that should be learnt in order to improve the conduct of potential and approved projects in the future.

-          To produce a report for the Mayor of London, which will be published in full.

 

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Readers' comments (7)

  • My faith in Mr Khan is returning (at least on this issue), I hope Ms Hodge can cut through all the sweet talking flowery guff emanating from the Garden Bridge Trust and this whole scheme and its procurement can be given a forensic assessment – I’m sure it will make fascinating reading.

    I enjoyed watching on the lunchtime news Ms Lumley’s rather convoluted nonsense about it being some sort of gift to the public and failing miserably to understand what constitutes a private space with public access.

    Here is a huge bill, and an agreement to funds its maintenance in perpetuity, and the terms and conditions under which the proles can be permitted to attend or be excluded …

    Great gift!

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  • a small point but for accuracy please note that the image you are using was a concept view before planning stage- that's not was has planning consent. the bridge is not symmetrical and the pier next to the Westminster bank is very close to the bank etc..

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  • SomeoneStoleMyNick

    I'm not sure that Margaret Hodge is the best person for this.

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  • @SSMN

    Why do you say that?

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  • SomeoneStoleMyNick

    It was MH who refused to list Robin Hood Gardens. It is MH who lambasts Jeremy Corbyn for "not having done enough to campaign to remain in the EU" when it was her own constituency of Barking that returned the largest Brexit majority in the whole country. However if she sticks to her brief, maybe she'll do a decent job. Credit to Sadiq Khan for how he has been handling this matter with the finesse to be expected from a skilled politician.

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  • Yes, lecturing Corbyn about the referendum when she herself presided over the result in Barking is regrettable in the extreme to put it politely!

    But I hope she can provide the ammunition for Mr Khan to finally put this thing out of our misery.

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  • MHodge will kill it like Robin Hood Gardens

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