London Assembly member Len Duvall has heaped pressure on the Garden Bridge Trust [GBT] to publish details of its pre-construction spending, after he revealed the assembly is seeking legal advice on the Garden Bridge procurement.
During a meeting of the Greater London Authority (GLA) oversight committee on Wednesday (11 October) Duvall told Transport for London (TfL) commissioner Mike Brown that he would seek legal advice about TfL’s due diligance process across several months in 2013, before TfL’s first official report on the project.
Duvall is the leader of the Greater London Assembly Labour group and is also chair of the GLA oversight committee.
“I’m almost thinking that you should be allowed to write back to us on that issue, on whether there was any illegality or ultra vires activity done by TfL before it went to its TfL governance board and before you had the mayoral direction,” he told Brown.
Later Duvall added it was “shocking” that TfL has not been told by the GBT how much of TfL’s £20M loan it will be able to repay.
“The admission that TfL are still waiting to hear from the GBT as to how much of the £20M loan might be repaid, is shocking. Overall £46M worth of public money was spent and frankly, as a minimum, the loan should be paid back. Whatever the final figures, TfL needs to ensure that the Garden Bridge Trust publishes detailed breakdowns of its pre-construction spending,” he said.
“Public trust must be restored after this fiasco and the responsibility for that lies firmly at the feet of TfL.”
During the meeting Brown said TfL would not repeat the same mistakes around accountability on public money in future.
“I would not enter into this sort of arrangement ever again,” said Brown, adding lessons concerning relying on charitable and private sector spending had been learned.
“I think it’s perfectly appropriate, by the way, to work in tandem between the private and public sector for big iconic projects, I don’t think that’s the issue at hand here, but I think the level of controls and the level of assurances as to how public money is spent is absolutely imperative.”
Meanwhile Dame Hodge, who pronounced the Garden Bridge “poor value for money” when her review was published in April, revealed she was concerned the project could have eaten up £100M of public money if it had gone ahead.
In August the GBT announced it would wind down after it failed to attract enough private investment to the project. London mayor Sadiq Khan said in May he would not provide a guarantee for maintaining the bridge.
A spokesperson for the GBT said the charity’s cash reserves would be used for cancellation costs in the first instance, while the Department for Transport will cover any more worth up to £9M.
“As the project is not proceeding, the Trust is in the process of terminating all contracts and arrangements with third parties and agreeing outstanding expenditure. The Trust will provide a final figure to TfL as soon as we are able to and this will start the process of claiming the additional monies required for GBT’s termination liabilities. The Trust stated in a letter to the mayor on 14 August that it will account for every line of expenditure as part of the winding up operation,” said the spokesperson.
New Civil Engineer has contacted TfL for a response.