THE ACCOUNTS STATE THE FINAL COST MAY “SUBSTANTIALLY EXCEED” £185m

11 Jan 2017

The wait is over! The accounts for year-ending 31 March 2016 have finally been published. We had been expecting them last July but at the very last moment the GBT delayed publication “for administrative purposes”.

It was thought at the time that the delay was simply to bide more time and to conceal the precarious nature of the project from us public (who are paying for it), the donors and politicians. However, even with a six month “administrative” delay it is not good reading for the stakeholders of the project and the donors who haven’t abandoned ship.

There are a few nuggets in there, a highlight being that the Trusteees admit that the final cost “may substantially exceed £185m”. The whole project must be stopped before more damage is wreaked.

You can view the accounts and report from the Companies House website HERE, but brief highlights included:

 

THE FINAL COST MAY SKYROCKET

The Trustees state that the “final cost could substantially exceed” the increased estimate of £185. The increasing costs have been flagged up by experts and protesters since day one and that the project is liable to skyrocket further is not a surprise to anyone who has experienced such projects such as the Millenium Dome or the Olympic Stadium.

For the first time the GBT mention Brexit, and while they list a number of delays to the project at no point do they mention the strong public opposition and dislike of their development. It’s almost as if the public and citizens are irrelevant to their aims and plans.

 

INQUIRIES
They make mention to the Dame Margaret Hodge review, stating that it is likely to publish in March 2017, and the ongoing Charity Commission inquiry. While they state there is nothing from the CC feedback which gives the Trustees concern at the moment they do not make the same claim about Dame Hodge’s. Dame Hodge is receiving a lot of evidence and giving serious consideration to many aspects of the project, its publication is important even if the GBT are not in operation by the time it is finished.

 

FUNDRAISING
They make a lot of noise about proudly raising £39m in donations over the accounting period “before a brick is laid”, but don’t mention that in this accounting period £20m worth of donations were pulled from the project.

They state that they are considering a public fundraising campaign which will also help raise awareness of the project. Well, people are increasingly quite aware of the project and with the GBT previous attempts at public engagement any crowdfunding campaign doesn’t bode well.

A lot of pressure rests on the Operations and Maintenance Business Plan, of which the draft was completely broken apart by expert Dan Anderson (PDF) as not being worth the paper it was written on. As mentioned, this Business Plan is needed to prove they can viably run in the red and pay off their debts to the state and without it no guarantee will be in place. But for the GBT to turn a hopeless Business Plan into one which is believable is a huge ask.

 

SADIQ KHAN
Sadiq has previously promised on numerous occasions not to risk any more public money on the Garden Bridge. The GBT require a Mayoral sign-off on the guarantee of annual £3m+ maintenance of the bridge before they can proceed. Sadiq cannot sign this without u-turning on his promise to Londoners as signing it off will, by the nature of a guarantee, risk public money.

The GBT claim to be in dialogue with Sadiq about signing this off:

Sadiq has proved many times, with many issues, that he is happy to u-turn. Though even so a watertight Business Plan is required before even he would put pen to paper, and the GBT are, as Dan Anderson highlights, a long way from a watertight plan.

What is hugely concerning for all Londoners is that Sadiq appears to be in dialogue with the GBT while singularly refusing to meet the local community, experts or protestors to the Garden Bridge. Who does this mayor represent? Why is he remaining silent, remote and distant? Why refuse to meet and talk to the very people who elected him into power?

 

LAND
The Garden Bridge planning permission expires in December 2017. They have many hoops to jump through before they can rip up the first tree and pour the first concrete, not least getting permission to build on both sides of the river (useful for a bridge!).

They still have not come to agreement with Coin Street Community Builders (CSCB) and, if Joanna Lumley is to be believed (which isn’t a given, ever), CSCB are “very opposed” to the development.

On the north side of the river the decision by Westminster CC has just been called in by cross-party Councillors and that the GBT will be allowed to build onto the listed and public Temple underground station is far from given.

 

LACK OF MONEY
The GBT appear to have run out of money. They are in the process of asking donors to allow them to spend their donations earlier than promised, to keep them afloat while the pre-construction activities drag on and so many unresolved issues remain.

 

CONTRACTORS
We now know that the contractors have been put on standby TWICE. Initially the French & Italian contractors were stood down in September 2015 while there were lease problems with the South Bank land, and then in July 2016 the Trustees again stood them down due to the many outstanding issues. They still remain ‘stood-down’.

This raises many questions, not lease why did TfL allow these contracts to be signed when there were, and still are, so many unresolved pre-construction issues. It’s almost as if they rushed the contract through to release a tranche of TfL money only to put it on hold once it was all spent. Is there no oversight at all or are TfL in cahoots with the GBT?

 

STAFF COSTS
Staff costs for the financial year reached an astonishing £477,471. That’s an awful lot of money, and includes one staff member earning over £110k, another between £80-90k and a third just below that pay rate.

 

ARE THE GBT A GOING CONCERN?
The Trustees state that the numerous risks to their project “Trustees are unable to conclude that the Trust is a going concern”. They have do not know if they can technically be viewed as a going concern, in short they are on life-support. They list a number of issues from political oppositiong to leases, but not once do they report on the ever-increasing popular opposition to their project. For a project that it is claimed is for the public, they singularly fail to mention the public lack of support.

The Trustees sum up their concerns here:

 

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