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Thursday24 August 2017

'Pull the plug' on Garden Bridge, says Hodge review

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City Hall-commissioned review trashes London project

Garden Bridge

Margaret Hodge has slammed the Garden Bridge project as representing poor value for money in a report that could be the final nail in the coffin for the controversial multi-million pound project.

Hodge, who was charged by London mayor Sadiq Khan to assess the viability of the Garden Bridge, said in her report that decisions on the Garden Bridge “were driven by electoral cycles rather than value for money.

She added: “From its inception when there was confusion as to its purpose, through a weak business case that was constructed after contracts had been let and money had been spent, little regard has been had to value for money.”

The original ambition to fund the Garden Bridge solely through private finance had been abandoned, her report went on. She added: “The goalposts have moved several times and each time the risks to the taxpayer have intensified.

“Looking to the future, the costs of construction have escalated and are likely to increase further. What started life as a project costing an estimated £60m is likely to end up costing over £200m.

“At the same time the Garden Bridge Trust has lost two major donors and has only secured £69 million in private funding pledges, leaving a gap of at least £70 million that needs to be raised for the capital investment. No new pledges have been obtained since August 2016.”

Hodge said with ongoing risks and uncertainties associated with the capital costs Khan should not sign any guarantees “until it is confirmed that the private capital money to build the bridge has been secured by the Garden Bridge Trust”.

She said she was sceptical that the Garden Bridge Trust would succeed in raising the private capital monies required and was “firmly of the view that more public money will be needed to complete the construction”.

The project has already used £37.4m of public money and the agreement to underwrite cancellation costs by the government could bring the bill to the taxpayer up to £46.4m.

“I believe it is better for the taxpayer to accept the loss than to risk the additional demands if the project proceeds. In the present climate, with continuing pressures on public spending, it is difficult to justify further public investment in the Garden Bridge.”

The Garden Bridge Trust chair Lord Mervyn Davis said, “We are pleased that Dame Margaret has finally published her report after six months of uncertainty.  We will be studying the report in detail and seeking a meeting with the Mayor of London to discuss next steps.  The Trust remains as determined as ever to make the Garden Bridge happen which will bring huge benefits to London and the UK.”

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Readers' comments (19)

  • Excellent. Can we now look forward to active recovery of as much as possible of the £37.4m of public money wasted to date?

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  • At last! Common-sense finally prevails. This must be the most expensive folly ever in this country - and with nothing to show for the ridiculous public expense except a few deceitful visuals.

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  • John Lee

    What on earth has cost £37.4m? All we seem to have to show for the spend are a number of ubiquitous CGI's and presumably a lot of reports and counter-reports from highly paid city advisors. Agree with Mr/Ms Ranter that strenuous efforts must be made to recover the wasted public element of the funding.....fat chance methinks!

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  • @ alfredhitchcock

    Have you forgotten about the millennium dome already ?

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  • Great news, how could it be anything else, the facts have been out there for long enough.

    Richard Jones - the Millennium 'dome' is now a successful venue and the 'tent' itself designed by Mike Davis etc was good value for money, it was the rubbish inside that was the extravagance.

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  • onlyslightlymoreconvinced

    @ Richard Jones
    something was a least built...

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  • @richard jones - the millennium dome (now the o2) is a highly successful venue and generates a vast income. The millennium party it hosted was the waste of money, not the building.

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  • sorry guys IMO
    £789 million build cost on an exhibition venue is a staggering waste of money.

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  • @richard jones - the build cost of the dome itself was less than £50m...the millennium party and crap that was put inside the dome cost over £600m.

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  • Austin Clegg

    I'm with Richard Jones on this one.

    I recommend Iain Sinclairs' brilliant book about the whole shameful episode called 'Sorry Meniscus'.

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