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PAC submits evidence to Mayor's Review of Garden Bridge Project

28 October 2016

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has submitted evidence to the Mayor of London's review of the Garden Bridge project.

The Garden Bridge Project review, which will examine the value for money of public investment in the project, is being conducted by former PAC Chair Dame Margaret Hodge MP.

£60 million of public money has been pledged to the proposed £185 million footbridge: £30 million from central Government and £30 million from Transport for London.

PAC has taken no formal position on the Garden Bridge but concerns about the risk to taxpayers' money have prompted the Committee to collect evidence and question civil servants involved in the decision-making processes.  

The Committee's submission includes a timeline of its engagement with the issue of the Garden Bridge and related documents, including correspondence regarding a ministerial direction to increase the Department for Transport's pre-construction commitment to the project.

Chair's comments

Meg Hillier MP, Chair of the PAC, said:

"The story of the Garden Bridge is a sorry tale about how high profile individuals with the ear of the powerful Mayor of London can gain access to funds with little risk.

At each stage it is taxpayers who have footed the bill.

The London taxpayer has been doubly hit. In addition to central Government putting in £30 million, TfL has also contributed £30 million for a project that seems largely for the benefit of tourists.

With an already stretched budget, TfL can ill afford this and there are still important questions about who would pay the ongoing maintenance of the bridge which the Mayor's review needs to get to the bottom of.

All this public money has been pledged without a convincing business case. The timetable has now slipped so there is serious likelihood that if the bridge gets the go-ahead it will clash with work to build the Thames Tideway tunnel.

Wishful thinking and a close relationship with the Mayor are not the basis on which central Government should be spending taxpayers' money.

Even when officials made their concerns clear the minister overrode them, potentially throwing good money after bad to protect taxpayers' original investment.

If the promised private investment fails to materialise this muddled thinking will result in a poor deal for taxpayers.

The Permanent Secretary of the Treasury has committed to providing our Committee with his own analysis of the business case for the Garden Bridge and we look forward to receiving this soon."

Further information

Image: Garden Bridge Trust