The Mayor of London has published Dame Margaret Hodge MP’s report on the Garden Bridge.
The Mayor, Sadiq Khan, commissioned Dame Margaret to undertake the review in October 2016. The review did not seek to address whether the Garden Bridge is a good idea. It did assess whether value for money was being secured from the public sector contribution and it examined the policies, procedures adopted to implement the Garden Bridge Project and the conduct of those involved.
Some of the key conclusions of the report include:
Decisions on the Garden Bridge were driven more by electoral cycles than value for taxpayers’ money.
The costs have escalated from an early estimate of £60m to over £200m today
The risk to the taxpayer has intensified. The original ambition to fund the Garden Bridge through private finance has been abandoned. The Garden Bridge Trust has lost two major private donors and has pledges of £69million with no new pledges secured since August 2016. With a public sector contribution of £60 million, that leaves a gap in capital funding of at least £70 million. Furthermore, very little progress has been made on raising money to fund the ongoing maintenance of a completed bridge.
There was not an open, fair and competitive process around the two TfL procurements for the Garden Bridge Project. The two procurements revealed systemic failures and ineffective control systems at many levels.
The Garden Bridge Trust’s finances are in a precarious state and many outstanding risks remain unresolved.
Commenting on her report, Dame Margaret said:
“I did not seek to ask whether the concept of a garden bridge over the River Thames is a good idea. But my review has found that too many things went wrong in the development and implementation of the Garden Bridge Project.
“Value for money for the taxpayer has not been secured. It would be better for the taxpayer to accept the financial loss of cancelling the project than to risk the potential uncertain additional costs to the public purse 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.
“I would urge the Mayor not to sign any guarantees until it is confirmed that the private capital and revenue monies have been secured by the Garden Bridge Trust.
“My report outlines some key lessons that can be learned from the Garden Bridge project across different public organisations and makes a number of recommendations. I thank the Mayor, Sadiq Khan, for giving me the opportunity to examine the project in detail.”