Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has admitted that £50M of public funds has already been spent on the Garden Bridge with almost no prospect of recovering it.
Talking on his “Speak to Sadiq” Q&A slot on LBC today (Tuesday), Khan slammed his predecessor Boris Johnson as he said the situation “does beggar belief”. Around £46.4M of public money has been spent on the scheme, with no construction work started on the Heatherwick Studio-designed bridge.
Dame Margaret Hodge’s report, published in April, recommended scrapping the project as represented “poor value for money”. A few weeks later, Khan scrapped his backing for the bridge and said he would not be providing financial guarantees from the GLA.
When LBC host James O’Brian asked if we will be “waving goodbye” to the £50M, Khan replied: “It does look that way, yep. Because it’s been spent.”
The project was originally designed to be 100% privately funded before then-mayor Boris Johnson and then-chancellor George Osborne pledged £60M from the GLA and Department for Transport. However, this rose dramatically to reach £200M by the time Hodge’s review recommended halting the bridge.
“As a consequence of the deal made by the previous mayor, monies were given to the trust by him and by the government – that money has been spent,” said Khan.
“I’m quite clear that no more taxpayers’ money, over which I have responsibility, will be spent”.
In May New Civil Engineer reported that £346,500 had been spent on enabling works at Temple Station alone, before funding concerns stopped the work.
“Public money was spent legitimately and as planned on detailed pre-construction plans as we have said on many occasions. It was always the intention to use the public investment first on pre-construction work and to kickstart the private fundraising drive,” said a spokesperson for the Garden Bridge Trust.
“It is also important to remember that the Charity Commission has looked closely at the governance of the Garden Bridge Trust. It concluded in a report published in February that the Trustees met their duties, financial management met the required standards, strategic leadership was provided, and that there was ‘robust and informed decision-making’.”