The Garden Bridge must fully cover its costs before construction says Westminster Committee

Westminster Labour is delighted that the ‘call in’ process instigated by Labour councillors Cllr Adam Hug and Cllr Tim Roca, supported by Committee Chair Cllr Brian Connell, has led to a cross-party consensus that Westminster should require the Garden Bridge Trust to prove it is financially viable before the start of any construction.

The call in process led by Westminster’s Housing, Finance and Corporate Services Committee, has requested the Westminster Council Cabinet Members think again about their proposed decision. The Committee has called for a lease condition that prevents construction from getting underway before the Garden Bridge Trust is able to prove it has the required funds available (not as promissory notes) to cover the costs of building the bridge. The committee requested that the project’s level of contingency be reviewed with the current £30 million buffer for a £185 million project seen as a potential risk given the scale of the engineering project and the uncertain economic times. They also requested an assessment of the potential impact of 7 million visitors on local services, such as street cleaning, in the Temple area.

Labour Group Leader Cllr Adam Hug said “I am delighted that the Committee has accepted the need for robust financial safeguards to be put in place to prevent the Garden Bridge construction beginning without the required funds being in place. No more public money should be spent on this project so it is essential to avoid the risk of a half built bridge where the tax payer is forced to pick up the tab to complete or remove it.”

Notes

  • Full information about the ‘call in’ is available on the Westminster Council website here: http://committees.westminster.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=326&MId=4299
  • The ‘call in’ process did not have the power to block the proposed acquisition of land near Temple tube station to facilitate the development of the Garden Bridge only to delay and refer the decision back for further deliberation.
  • Lord (Mervyn) Davies, Chairman of the Garden Bridge Trust has previously argued in a letter to the Financial Times that the bridge might begin construction without all funds being in place saying that ‘it is not unusual for projects that depend on donations to start without all of the money being in the bank’ https://www.ft.com/content/533fbaac-9c3b-11e6-8324-be63473ce146
  • The current discussions around a mayoral guarantee to underwrite costs only applies to potential operation and maintenance costs, not construction costs.
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