London Garden Bridge trustees, including actress Joanna Lumley and former Labor Secretary Lord Davies, could have violated their legal obligations over the failed project that cost taxpayers more than £ 40 million, according to a leading attorney.
The legal view comes from the mounting pressure for a formal investigation into how the charity behind the abandoned system spent so much money without construction even starting.
Labor and the Liberal Democrats found Tuesday that the Kids Company charity received the same total amount of taxpayers money, but faced multiple investigations after it was shut down due to severity in 2015.
The opinion of Jason Coppel QC, an expert in public law and public procurement law, submitted to the Architects Journal suggests that there may be a legal claim against the trustees of the Garden Bridge Trust.
The trustees included Lumley and Lord Mervyn Davies, a banker and junior minister under Gordon Brown, PR manager Roland Rudd, brother of Tory MP Amber Rudd, and Paul Morrell, former chief construction advisor to the government.
Coppel said a possible breach of fiduciary duties was particularly relevant to the trust’s decision to sign a construction contract for the bridge, despite a number of planning-related hurdles to be overcome and the required private sector funding not to be raised.
The decision to continue the construction contract resulted in public losses capped initially at £ 16m and increased to an estimated £ 46m by the termination of the project in 2017.
The project, for which the then Mayor of London Boris Johnson campaigned, was to be financed mainly through private donations. Most of the money, however, came from the £ 60 million public funding allocated to the project.
Coppel was asked by the party that commissioned the legal opinion – which remains anonymous – to examine a possible claim for breach of duty against the trustees because of the losses.
The QC wrote that while Transport for London and others could be to blame, the trustees have an obvious responsibility, particularly the decision to sign the construction contract “at a time when the Trust has not secured all of the necessary funding for the company project still had the necessary rights to use the land that would be required ”.
However, he went on to argue that any legal action against the Trustees was made difficult by the fact that the Garden Bridge Trust beneficiaries were identified only as “members of the public at large.”
The Architects Journal said the trustees declined to comment, but it is understood that they believe they have acted in accordance with the obligations at all times.
The idea for the tree-lined pedestrian link from Temple to the South Bank in central London was based on an idea by Lumley and was strongly supported by Johnson and then Chancellor George Osborne.
However, after doubts about the planned location in an already overcrowded tourist area, its alleged use as a transport link and the question of whether the trust could raise sufficient funds and make the project available to the budget, the bridge was finally replaced by Johnson’s successor Sadiq Khan painted .
Andrew Gwynne, secretary of the shadow communities, said taxpayers deserve an explanation. He told the Architects Journal: “When the Kids Company failed, ministers intervened and sued the project leaders, but the government has shown no interest in the Garden Bridge project.”
Caroline Pidgeon, Lib Dem chair of the London Assembly’s Transportation Committee, said Lumley and her colleagues should see “exactly the same level of scrutiny that the Trustees of the Kids Company face”.
She said, “The Charity Commission claims their hands are largely tied, but there is now clear legal evidence that the trustees may have failed in their duty to act with reasonable skill and care.”
The Commission cleared the Garden Bridge Trust of financial irregularities in 2017. A spokeswoman said she did not see the legal opinion and that new evidence would be “assessed in accordance with our normal processes.”