Why has nobody been held accountable for the Garden Bridge scandal?

Yesterday on LBC, Sadiq Khan acknowledged that the taxpayer is unlikely to see anything for the £50 million which has been spent on the Garden Bridge.

The Daily Express did its best to portray Khan, rather than Boris Johnson, as the guilty party here. Following James O’Brien’s show, they wrote a piece which totally failed to recognize the fact that it was Khan who had been the one who had instigated the enquiry which Margaret Hodge produced. A report which made it clear that no more public money should be invested in this project.

It is clear that there were multiple failings in the way this project was managed, especially in the way the procurement was handled. Yet, the Conservative Group on the Greater London Assembly has attempted to play Pontius Pilate and pretend that it was not all that bad, stating that it was “unable to agree to” the official report produced by the GLA’s oversight committee.

It is nothing short of a disgrace that someone can waste £50 million of taxpayers’ money with no consequences for their career. Just 25% of London tube stations have step-free access, which means that disabled people and those with buggies struggle to get around on the underground. The £50 million could have been spent in so many better ways to improve public transport in London.

Another key point which needs addressing is what should happen to the directors or trustees of the Garden Bridge. Unlike in the case of Kids Company, where some individuals have been barred from being directors for six years, it would appear that there will be no consequences for those whose fingerprints are all over the Garden Bridge.

Until the people involved are properly held to account for one of the most scandalous examples of waste and mis-management in government, we will not prevent this from happening again.

* Chris Key is dad of two girls, multilingual and internationalist. He is a Lib Dem member in Twickenham who likes holding the local council and MPs to account.

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This entry was posted in London and Op-eds.


  • I expect it will be kicked into the long grass.

  • paul barker 10th Aug '17 - 5:04pm

    This strikes me as silly & illiberal. The Garden Bridge was a great idea but there was no prospect of it being built solely with Public Funds in the present Political climate. That meant mixed Public/Private Funding & taking a risk. In this case the risk didnt pay off & Londoners lost about a Fiver each. Lets talk about serious Politics please.

  • Michael Cole 10th Aug '17 - 5:20pm

    Chris, Thank you for setting the record straight on the £50million Garden Bridge fiasco. Seemingly, the only mitigating factor is that it didn’t result in lost lives.

    In conclusion you say “Until the people involved are properly held to account for one of the most scandalous examples of waste and mis-management in government, we will not prevent this from happening again.” Yes, but how do you do it ? We know from experience that most inquiries end up being somewhat of a whitewash. Personally, I am sick and tired of hearing repeated promises by successive governments that “We will take steps to make sure this never happens again”.

    This Garden Bridge disgrace is a relatively small part of a much wider problem – the political malaise in this country. We need more than ever the reforms which LDs have long advocated, such as ‘fair votes’ and a properly structured constitution (and much more). Until such reform is achieved we will not mitigate short-termism’ and will continue to receive cosmetic, not real, accountability.

  • Laurence Cox 10th Aug '17 - 5:30pm

    I agree with Paul Barker’s first and last sentences. I would prefer it is we hadn’t wasted £50 million but it’s still small beer compared with, for example, the amount of money that needs to be put into London’s NHS. The only justification for the Mayor supporting the Garden Bridge was that one end of it would have been at Temple underground station, which desparately needs modernising and where step-free access to platform level could have been incorporated as part of the plan.

    From the consultation in 2013:

    “The bridge has been designed to be accessible with lifts and stairs at each landing. The north landing point will be accessed via a ramp from Temple Place and a lift from Temple London Underground station roof to the bridge deck.”

  • Singapore seems to be able do these kind of projects quite well http://edition.cnn.com/2012/06/08/world/asia/singapore-supertrees-gardens-bay/index.html using British architects.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 10th Aug '17 - 7:00pm

    The garden bridge is the idea of the otherwise , wonderful ,Joanna Lumley, who normally should be praised not criticised, her campaigning and charity alone are valuable, but this was a bridge too far ! It was the previous Mayor however , not her or the current one, who should carry the can.

    Chris is correct, much else needs funds,but any disabled person using the regularly hideous underground, especially if working and travelling during rush hour , needs better buses ,or mobility grants , as it is a nightmare peak times.

    The waste of public money is a political issue or should be for Liberals with concern that money should help people and be of benefit to the most in need the most frequently.

    I see waste ,a lot, on nonsense schemes and projects, and subsidy for fees, consultants, and the worst, lawyers who as a matter of everyday norm, can negotiate themselves hundreds an hour. Obscenity.

    Why or how ,we can accept the sort of top heavy organisations like the BBC, revealed to be a disgrace on gender related salary issues and waste , outgoings most private and public bodies would find unbelievable, newspaper bills and refreshment budgets , most companies or organisations do not even have at all, when people are in poverty and self employed potential business cannot get backing , for ideas, is baffling.

    The difference between the garden bridge and the rest is little , the intention was at least well meant.

    Joanna, should realise that it is where she has worked ,in television ,that she should see the difference between money forced out of the public , and money put forward by investors, as she has worked throughout the sector !!

    The money spent on that bridge is a lot less than the waste in many sectors though,that doesn’t excuse this.

  • Joe,
    Singapore is a financially successful country (its where they make Dyson cleaners for example).
    And, of course, the UK is bankrupt (unless you believe that the fairies are going to come and magic away our deficit so we can keep borrowing until then).

  • Well, I suppose if we are to investigate this scandal we should also include within the investigations remit the scandal as to why two crossing in East London have seen their price rocket from £250m to £1bn [ http://www.lbc.co.uk/hot-topics/garden-bridge/lbcs-long-read-the-garden-bridge-124786/ ]…

  • Joe – re: “Singapore seems to be able do these kind of projects quite well ”

    I’m sure that if this project had gone ahead it would have been done “quite well”, the challenge is getting to that stage.

    Remember, much was made of the opening of the Channel Tunnel, the fact there was no high-speed line linking it to London was a minor consideration. Just like when the link to London was finally opened everyone had conveniently forgotten that what was opened was a vastly inferior line and London interchange station compared to what was originally planned… I suspect that projects in Singapore are not immune to similar factors and hence suspect the project you refer to isn’t identical to the original plans and probably either went over-budget or was altered to enable delivery within the original budget forecast…

  • Christopher Morrs 11th Aug '17 - 11:50am

    Interesting article, however I would say that you can’t really examine the issue of the Garden Bridge without looking at the incredible record of Caroline Pidgeon in scrutinising the procurement and funding decisions. Over a number of years she has worked with journalists and asked repeated questions and submitted important FOI requests.


  • Paul Barker, Laurence Cox : Yes £50 million may be a relatively small amount but it is £50 million here and £100 million there and it all adds up. Rural bus services are being closed down for the sake of a few thousand pounds. We need to get a grip on these unnecessary schemes and stop wasting other people’s money. If you are not much bothered perhaps you could spend your own money instead of mine ?

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