Theo Usherwood, the political editor of LBC, has just published an article on the morning Nick Ferrari show updating on the Charity Commission investigation into the Garden Bridge and revealing some damning insights from City Hall, the Government and even from the Garden Bridge Trust themselves.
While publicly the Garden Bridge Trust say everything is going swimmingly and on track, only one donor is willing to give money up front and it’s revealed that even the Trustees now have grave concerns for the viability of the development.
In a report titled “A £185m bridge to nowhere”, Usherwood outlined the current state of the project as has been documented on this site, reminded viewers that the GBT are “burning through the cash”, wasting £500,000 a month and cconfirmed that the last £7m given to the project by Boris Johnson back in February and March should only have been spent when ready to start construction.
While these facts were all already known, nobody has the faintest idea what the GBT have been splurging the money on because under charity rules their finances are protected and at the end of July when they should have filed their returns they decided to delay until December for “administrative purposes”. But what journalists like Usherwood can do that public opponents can’t is get a response from Sadiq Khan and his team – Usherwood heard from sources close to Sadiq that told him the development is on “life support machine” and is now expected not to be built.
He also phoned around the publicly announced donors including up the Monument Trust, Garfield Weston, Sackler and many private donors. Only one, Citi Group, have said they have agreed to donate any cash before construction starts. This means that the ONLY cash the GBT have is our public money, and as Newsnight’s Hannah Barnes wrote last week it appears there is none of that left!
Barnes wrote, “Taking the Mayor and transport minister’s statements together, it implies that no more public money is available to the Garden Bridge Trust before any construction starts: TfL won’t provide any more unless it’s matched by the Government. And the Government have capped the amount its willing to contribute at this stage of the project.”
So, while a spokesrobot from the GBT repeated the same old mantra about “On track… huge support… privately funded….” the quotes coming from City Hall were less positive, Usherwood saying “City Hall and Westminster consider it has missed the window to be built. That window was this summer.” while sources close to Sadiq said that it will be the 13 Trustees to PERSONALLY pay for the Garden Bridge to be demolished if construction begins then goes bankrupt.
KATE HOEY ON LBC
Kate Hoey MP came on air to explain why she had the Adjournment Debate on the bridge last week, saying:
“The GBT is a charity but it’s been a way to use the charity structure to railroad a project through, using charity rules we have not been able to see the finances.”
“Is this really sustainable? Is this bridge ever going to earn enough money to pay its way. I expect it now to be cancelled, and yes there is some public money spent on this but we are saved from losing an awful lot more.”
Then, just as she said in Parliament, Hoey said everyone she has spoken to in authority thinks the project is failing but says none of the have the sense of leadership to press the stop button.
“I know from talking privately to people that there is huge concern for this in Government, City Hall and with the Garden Bridge Trustees. We need someone to now have the bravery to now say ‘this is now not going to be successful’ [and stop it]”
WHEN IT’S ALL OVER
Usherwood stated that the losses of the project fails are around £47m, more than Sadiq had been stating, as the GBT has signed many contracts with large cancellation clauses. The £9m of the government insurance is called “a write off” which has strong implications that the project is now expected by all sides to collapse.
However, when it collapses it cannot be the end.The procurements and Boris Johnson’s management needs to be fully, legally, examined. Any possiblity of clawing back public money from stakeholders and Trustees needs to be looked into. A full report by an independen figure needs to be written up as a guidebook of how not to run an infrastructure project and seeing what lessons can be learnt.
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