Londoners should be "very angry" at the public money wasted on the garden bridge project, Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, has said following the charity’s decision to close.
The Garden Bridge Trust announced yesterday that it was abandoning plans to build and run a £185m tree-lined bridge across the River Thames in central London, and blamed a lack of support from the mayor for the project’s failure.
But in a statement released by the mayor, he said that the project had "multiple serious issues with it", including a £70m funding gap, procurement process failures and decisions "not driven by value for money".
For these reasons, no further funding was committed to the project and mayoral support was withdrawn, Khan’s statement said.
The mayor’s decision was taken following an independent review of the Garden Bridge project carried out by the Labour MP Dame Margaret Hodge that said it was better for the taxpayer to accept the loss of £46.4m already invested in the scheme than to put further public money in.
Khan’s statement on Monday said: "It’s my duty to ensure taxpayers’ money is spent responsibly. Following the very serious issues highlighted in Dame Margaret Hodge’s independent review of the bridge – including a funding gap of more than £70m, potentially unlimited costs to London taxpayers to fund the bridge in the future, systemic failings in the procurement process and decisions not being driven by value for money – I could not permit a single penny more of London taxpayers’ money being spent on it.
"I have been clear since before I became mayor that no more London taxpayers’ money should be spent on this project and when I took office I gave the Garden Bridge Trust time to try to address the multiple serious issues with it. Londoners will, like me, be very angry that London taxpayers have now lost tens of millions of pounds – committed by the previous mayor on a project that has amounted to nothing."
Khan’s withdrawal of support was cited by the Garden Bridge Trust’s trustees as the main reason for the trust’s closure, as mayoral support was a condition of planning approvals from the London Borough of Lambeth and Westminster City Council.
The planning permission was due to expire in December, and the charity had attempted to buy land on the south bank of the Thames for three years without success.
The bridge had been allocated £37.4m funding from the Department for Transport and Transport for London, and the government has an agreement in place to underwrite cancellation costs that will bring the total amount of public money invested in the bridge to £46.4m.
Hodge’s review said it was unlikely the trust could have secured enough financial support to build and maintain the bridge, although the charity’s trustees had criticised the review for failing to fully investigate the charity’s fundraising activities and its public engagement work.