London Mayor Khan Announces Probe Into Disputed Garden Bridge

  • Labour lawmaker Hodge to investigate project’s value for money
  • Work due to start in 2017 to build tree-lined Thames crossing

London Mayor Sadiq Khan asked lawmaker Margaret Hodge to review the capital’s disputed Garden Bridge project to determine whether it provides value for money for taxpayers, who are footing almost a third of the 185 million-pound ($240 million) construction costs.

The review will investigate the work of the Greater London Authority and Transport for London since the 366-meter (1,200-feet) tree-lined pedestrian bridge across the River Thames was first proposed in 2013, Khan’s office said on Thursday in an e-mailed statement. The mayor has pledged to increase the transparency of the project, which is led by a charitable trust and has been dismissed by critics as a waste of public funding.

Hodge, like Khan a member of the U.K.’s main opposition Labour Party, was chairwoman of Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee, which scrutinizes government spending, for five years through to last year.

“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,” Khan said in the statement. “Nearly 40 million pounds 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.”

Khan has already determined that scrapping the project would cost taxpayers more than allowing it to proceed. That’s because the central government and London authorities have already paid out 37 million pounds of the 60 million pounds they’ve pledged. If the bridge proceeds, a 20-million pound loan will be repaid to government, and the Treasury will benefit from about 22 million pounds in tax.

The Garden Bridge Trust said in a statement last Friday that it expects to begin construction next year, after scrapping a timeline that would have seen building start this summer. The trust has so far raised 69 million pounds of funding, on top of the public contribution. That leaves it with a 56 million-pound shortfall. The trust said in March it had signed a construction contract with Bouygues Travaux Publics and Cimolai SpA.

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