Standards commissioner examines complaint against Garden Bridge review

It's alleged that Labour MP Dame Margaret Hodge broke parliamentary rules and was paid for her work, despite claims that she would do it for free

Garden Bridge, an artist's impression
Garden Bridge, an artist's impression

This story has been amended. Please see final paragraph for details.

The Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards is looking into allegations that Dame Margaret Hodge broke parliamentary rules during her review of the Garden Bridge project.

The Labour MP for Barking conducted a review of the plans to build a tree-covered bridge across the River Thames in London at the request of Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, amid concerns about the viability of the project, and her recommendations led to the withdrawal of mayoral support for the project.

The review, which was released in April, said it was unlikely the Garden Bridge Trust, the charity behind the project, could secure the financial support required to complete and then maintain the bridge.

The project has used £37.4m of public money, with cancellation costs bringing the total amount of public money spent on the bridge to £46m, the review says.

But a spokeswoman for the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards said today the commissioner was looking into a complaint that Hodge broke rules by using her parliamentary office to conduct interviews as part of the review.

The commissioner will now consider whether the complaint fall within her remit and whether to open an investigation.

It is also claimed that Hodge was paid £9,500 for her work, despite claims that she would conduct the review for free.

Andrew Boff, the Conservative London Assembly member who made the complaint, said: "The mayor needs to explain why the decision was suddenly taken to pay Hodge £9,500 and why there was not greater scrutiny of her ability to conduct the review.

"Having forked out almost £50m, Londoners deserve some answers."

A spokeswoman for Hodge said Boff was "jumping the gun" about the complaint, because no official investigation was yet open.

The commissioner is expected to decide whether the complaint warrants an investigation within the next five working days.

The review’s findings have previously been criticised by the Garden Bridge Trust, which said the report was "selective" in its use of facts.

The trust said a ComRes poll showed more than three-quarters of Londoners supported the project and that Hodge had not investigated the charity’s fundraising activities in detail.

But the trust’s latest accounts, which were released earlier this year, showed the trust needed to plug a £56m shortfall in the amount it had raised towards the estimated £185m cost of the Garden Bridge project.

The charity has also failed to purchase the necessary land on the south bank of the river to build the bridge and planning permission for the bridge is due to expire in December.

This led to Khan’s withdrawal of support for the project and, although he does not have the authority to cancel the project, a mayoral guarantee to support the operation and maintenance of the bridge was a condition of planning approvals from the London Borough of Lambeth and Westminster City Council.

This story originally described Margaret Hodge as a peer. She is of course the MP for Barking.

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