The Treasury has been criticised for providing a business case for the controversial Garden Bridge project that does not meet MPs’ “rigorous standards”.
The chair of the Committee of Public Accounts (PAC), which scrutinises how taxpayers’ money is spent, wrote a letter of complaint to the Treasury this week regarding PAC’s request for an analysis of the Garden Bridge business case. The letter was written by the PAC chair Meg Hillier MP and was sent to Treasury permanent secretary Tom Scholar.
“I remain concerned about the risk to taxpayers’ money and the commitments that were made to underwrite the project if it is cancelled,” Hillier said in the letter.
“Could you please provide the committee with what it asked for – namely an analysis of the business case rather than a statement of facts and a commentary. What you have provided does not meet the rigorous standards I would expect the Treasury to apply to its work.”
Hillier went on to say that the email sent to the committee office, which contained the business case, only confirms the concerns raised at the hearing on the Garden Bridge in October.
Regarding the need for a pedestrian link between Temple Station and the Southbank, the letter said the concern is that the Garden Bridge “seems an extravagant solution to deal with a ‘missing’ walkway and given the suggestion that the bridge would be closed for up to 12 nights a year for private events does not seem to be one that addresses the issue. Suggested journey time savings and health benefits also seem entirely tenuous”.
The assumption of a tourism boost is also questioned, with the PAC seeking an analysis.
The PAC is also concerned about ministers’ belief that there was “a reasonable prospect of it delivering value for money”. Hillier referred to this as an “optimistic conclusion”.
A Treasury spokesperson said: “The Permanent Secretary has received the PAC’s letter today and will respond in due course.”