The charity behind London’s Backyard Bridge attracts on the MP’s criticism of London politics


The charity behind the London Garden Bridge accused a senior Labor MP of “disregarding the facts” and selective use of evidence after saying the project should likely be scrapped to avoid wasting more public funds.

A report by Margaret Hodge on whether the proposed leafy link across the Thames was value for taxpayers money said last week that the project had a sad business case and was largely driven by political motivations.

In its response, the Garden Bridge Trust accused Hodge, who was formerly chairman of the Commons Public Accounts Committee, of primarily speaking to opponents of the bridge and going beyond Mayor Sadiq Khan’s mandate.

Lord Davies, the Labor peer and former government minister who presides over the Trust, wrote a long letter to Hodge noting that he had identified “a number of inaccuracies” in their report.

In a separate and strongly worded statement, Davies said, “It is a shame that Lady Margaret has disregarded the facts and selectively used evidence to support her own opinions.”

The future of the bridge was in Khan’s hands, added Davies. “Our message to him is that this report, with its many errors and ill-informed opinions, is not a basis for making decisions about a project that has gone through the complex democratic processes that make decisions about development in this city. ”

The response is sort of a rearguard action by the charity, which has come under pressure about the rising cost of the severely delayed structure and worries about its ability to raise enough private funding to build and maintain the structure.

To date, £ 40m in public money has been allocated to the Thomas Heatherwick-designed 367-meter-long bridge from Temple on the north bank of the Thames to the south bank, of which just over £ 37m was spent before any work began.

In her report, Hodge said an initial cost estimate of around £ 60m is now likely to be more than £ 200m and the Garden Bridge Trust has yet to raise at least £ 70m in donations with no new commitments made since August 2016 .

Eliminating the project would bring the public debt to £ 46.4 million, Hodges told report, adding, “I believe it is better for the taxpayer to accept the loss than to risk the additional requirements if the project will be continued. “

In response, the Trust said the lack of new donors was primarily due to the uncertainty caused by commissioning the report and that Hodge had not fully investigated the proposed fundraising drives. Davies’ letter also denies Hodge’s allegation that the Trust failed to properly consult or put in contact with local people and was seen locally as increasingly controversial.

He cited a 2015 poll that found more than three-quarters of locals supported the bridge. The usefulness of this survey has been questioned in the past as neither the cost nor the use of public funds was mentioned.

Davies argued that Hodge chose to “focus almost entirely on speaking to known opponents of the project” rather than speaking to existing funders.

It is up to Khan to decide the future of a project he inherited from his predecessor Boris Johnson, who was identified in Hodge’s report as the driving force behind a project they consider “more of election cycles than good value for money -Ratio driven “.

Khan has not yet responded to the report but previously said he would not allow any more public money to be used on the bridge.

In response to Davies’ letter, Hodge replied that she “did not expect the Garden Bridge Trust to support the conclusions I came to”.

She added, “I have conducted an extensive investigation and the conclusions I have come to are based on this evidence. My review shows that too many things went wrong in the development and implementation of the garden bridge project.

“The value for money for the taxpayer is not assured and it would be better for the taxpayer to accept the financial loss of canceling the project than to risk the potentially uncertain additional costs to the government if the project continues becomes.”