One day after the National Audit Office report and everybody is talking about the Garden Bridge. The facts of the report were pulled apart across the mainstream media, broadsheets to tabloids, with below-the-line commentators fuming and social media seeping with anger.
Most of the headlines focused on the finances that will be lost when the bridge is cancelled, but this is not the story – these figures were already known and are far smaller than the sums that the public purse would be liable for should the project ever see the light of day. But deeper into the articles journalists realised where the real stories lay – and there are many of them in a loaded and critical report.
As with all Garden Bridge reporting, you can find the coverage in this site’s media archive. It includes articles in The Guardian, Financial Times (£), The Mirror, Daily Mail, The Sun and more. It even popped up in the Gulf Times and Canada’s Globe and Mail.
Many reporters, including Will Hurst at the ever-analytical Architects’ Journal (£), picked up on the story of the government funding the Garden Bridge against their official advice, and drawing comparisons between the Garden Bridge Trust and Kids’ Company.
London SE1 reports that “the main new revelation from the NAO investigation is that a formal ministerial direction was used in May this year to extend the Government’s liabilities to underwrite the bridge’s cancellation costs.” Ministerial Directions are very rare processes where a Civil Servant raises serious concerns with a spending decision for which the Minister in charge must then overall their concerns and personally sign off on it. They are explained excellently in this Civil Service World article on the report.
Other outlets, such as the BBC and Daily Mail, picked up on this too. They ran with the news that David Cameron and George Osborne personally intervened to push the finances through against their department’s advice, before expressing their ‘frustration’ in the hold ups of pouring public cash into this most wasteful of private projects.
Other media, such as the Financial Times (£), picked out the story that the Garden Bridge Trustees seem to be more interested in getting public cash in place as insurance for when the project is cancelled – thereby saving themselves from personal liability.
Do have a look through the media coverage, but the best way to really understand the issues is to read the report yourself. It’s not that long and each paragraph reveals shocking truths about finance, mismanagement, lack of oversight and murky political decisions.
The Garden Bridge Trust bother less and less to dialogue with the public they claim to be constructing this project for, though they did put out a press release stating “it is right that there is scrutiny of the project because it involves public money and transparency is good for us at an uncertain time.”
Mostly they exist in these press releases responding to the latest critical attack on their arrogant development or with misleading pleas of desperation like both Joanna Lumley and Mervyn Davies have made recently. So any lazy attempt at communication should really be welcomed…
Except, sometimes it’s just too lazy. Their recent Facebook page update co-opted a video made by another organisation which they then piggy-backed in an attempt to gain ecological credence:
The only problem is that the Garden Bridge’s ecological ‘benefits’ aren’t shared by many nature or environment groups. In fact, the London Bee Keepers Association don’t think their buzzing friends will benefit at all and the huge costs involved are a waste:
If the Garden Bridge Trust really cared in the slightest about the environment, they would immediately cancel their plans and convince the donors they have hoodwinked into their project to give their sums to GENUINE ecological charities which may make London a cleaner and healthier city for people, plants and animals.
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