Dame Margaret Hodge MP to conduct review into Garden Bridge project

22 September 2016

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has today announced that Dame Margaret Hodge MP, former chair of the Public Accounts Committee, will conduct a review into the Garden Bridge project.

 

The review into the proposed £185m footbridge linking Temple with the Southbank will look in detail at whether value for money has been achieved from the taxpayers’ contribution to the project, and investigate the work of TfL, the GLA, and other relevant authorities around the Garden Bridge going back to when the project was first proposed.

 

Dame Margaret Hodge spent five years as Chair of the Public Accounts Committee scrutinising public spending across all areas of Government, and earned widespread respect from all sides of the political spectrum, holding leading public figures to account.

 

The Garden Bridge review will look in detail at the procurement process around the project, and whether required standards have been met around transparency and openness going back to the beginning of the project. A report will be produced for the Mayor following the completion of the review.

 

In his first week as Mayor, Sadiq Khan promised to look into the decisions made around the public sector contribution to the project, and subsequently published the full business plan for the Garden Bridge project, as well as a list of its funders that could be made public.  

 

The Mayor has pledged to make the project more open and transparent compared to his predecessor, and has made his view clear that no new London taxpayers’ funds should be committed to the Garden Bridge.

The terms of the reference for the Garden Bridge review will include:

 

-          To assess the public sector contribution to the Garden Bridge project and whether value for money has been achieved

 

-          To investigate the conduct of Transport for London, the Greater London Authority and other relevant authorities in regard to the Garden Bridge project from first proposal to date

 

-          To achieve this through assessing the findings of previous reviews, interviewing current and former GLA/TfL staff and other stakeholders, and investigating more deeply as required

 

-          To set out any lessons that should be learnt in order to improve the conduct of potential and approved projects in the future

-          To produce a report for the Mayor of London, which will be published in full

 

 

Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan -

 

“I’m clear that since the beginning of the project there hasn’t been the necessary standard of transparency and openness around the Garden Bridge. Nearly £40m of public money has already been spent on the Garden Bridge project, and Londoners deserve far more information about the decisions that have been made around how their money is being spent.

“Margaret Hodge is hugely respected for her work scrutinising some of the UK’s largest and most high-profile publicly funded bodies. There’s no better qualified person to get to the bottom of the procurement process around the Garden Bridge, and establish whether Londoners have been getting value for money since the project began. I am absolutely clear that no new London taxpayers’ funds should be committed to the Garden Bridge, but I’m also determined that the Garden Bridge review helps the project achieve higher standards of accountability and transparency it has so far been lacking.”

 

Dame Margaret Hodge MP – 

‘I’m delighted to accept Sadiq’s offer to look in detail at some of the key decisions made so far around the Garden Bridge. It’s not a project that I have previously had an opinion on either for or against, but given the millions of pounds of public money allocated to the project, it is clear that there needs to be far more transparency around how funds are being spent. The planned bridge is a major project in an iconic part of London, and there are clearly questions that remain unanswered around issues like procurement.

‘From his first day in office Sadiq has been relentless in his drive to ensure Londoners get value for money, both around the Garden Bridge and other areas of major spending. I look forward to presenting the findings of the review, and assessing the lessons we can learn for other major projects in our city.’

Notes to editors

Dame Margaret Hodge has been M.P. for Barking since 1994. She served as Chair of the Public Accounts Committee between 2010-2015, scrutinising all areas of government spending, and holding Government and civil servants to account. Her more high-profile work included looking at the action the Government was taking to deal with corporate tax avoidance.

 

The Garden Bridge review will cost up to £25K, and the GLA and TfL will provide other non-financial support, including information going back to the beginning of the project, and interviews with staff.

 

Sadiq Khan has been clear that no new London taxpayers’ funds should be committed to the Garden Bridge project, and since his first week in office has pledged to make the project more open and transparent. The Mayor subsequently published the full business plan for the Garden Bridge as well as a list of its funders that could be made public and a detailed breakdown of TfL’s expenditure on the project. He has also demanded that the Bridge is a genuinely public and open space for all Londoners, with strict limitations on how often the Bridge is closed for private events.

 

 

Garden Bridge – funding so far

 

·         The Garden Bridge Trust has stated that the total cost of the project is currently estimated to be £185 million.

·         £60 million of public money has been pledged – with £30 million from TfL and £30 million from the Government. £20 million of the money pledged by TfL is in the form of a loan to be repaid in full.

·         Approximately £37 million has already been spent from the total £60 million pledged by Government and TfL.

·         However, if the Garden Bridge is finished, then not only will the £20 million loan be repaid to TfL, but the Garden Bridge Trust will need to pay approximately £22 million in VAT to the Treasury – leaving an ultimate cost to the taxpayer of £18 million.

 

Previous reviews

The Garden Bridge Review will assess the findings of a number of other previous reviews. These include:

 

·         TfL carried out an Internal Audit review of the two procurement exercises that had taken place in 2013.https://tfl.gov.uk/corporate/publications-and-reports/temple-footbridge

·         The GLA Oversight Committee carried out an investigation into the Garden Bridge design procurement. This reported in March 2016.https://www.london.gov.uk/about-us/london-assembly/london-assembly-publications/garden-bridge-design-procurement

·         The National Audit Office has considered the Department for Transport’s rationale for providing £30 million to the project, reporting its findings to the Public Accounts Committee in January 2016.

·         The National Audit Office is currently carrying out an investigation into the Department for Transport’s handling of its funding of the Garden Bridge.

·         The Charities Commission has been in dialogue with the Garden Bridge Trust following a request from a local MP that the Commission look into the project. The Charities Commission is expected to decide soon whether to initiate a full investigation of the Garden Bridge Trust.