Big Questions For Sadiq

14 Sep 2016

Today is one of the 10 yearly Mayor’s Question Times when Assembly Members get to put questions to the mayor in order to maintain their role of scrutiny and oversight of his actions. With the amount that has happened in the last few weeks with the Garden Bridge it’s an important one for Sadiq, but he has history of ducking any real answers in favour of somewhat meaningless slogans and shifting responsibility onto other parties. Today he has the chance to act like a mayor.

Throughout his campaign and since becoming mayor Sadiq has singularly refused to meet any of the opponents of the Garden Bridge or the local community who will be so affected by the development. Under his watch the Garden Bridge has escelated in cost, had funders withdraw, have serious questions asked across the media – and yet he still refuses any responsibility, hasn’t shown any leadership and shamefully has not initiated the mayoral investigation he claimed had begun.

 

Talk is cheap, and Sadiq has done a lot of talking and has a tendency to promise the sky when all he offers is slogans and photo opportunities. His promises of a transparent and open regime are now realised as having semantically shifted; he appears to be anything but. With apparent ease at breaking his election promises he has broken countless Garden Bridge promises; to halt the development, to use the money to pedestrianise Oxford Street, to have a full independent inquiry, to throw light on the finances and murky workings of the Garden Bridge Trust. But he has done none of these. None.

The Garden Bridge doesn't represent value for money. I'd put the money towards pedestrianising Oxford St. Via @FT pic.twitter.com/ak40sRS1aa

— Sadiq Khan (@SadiqKhan) October 5, 2015

 

It appears that his hugely promised thorough investigation into the Garden Bridge and its procurement, which he called for during his election and has stated as being in process, isn’t happening! He had delegated responsibility to David Bellamy, his Chief of Staff, but with none of the experts, opponents, local residents or politicians who know the project so profoundly having been approached it is now believed that he has has shelved the promised inquiry in stupid hope questions simply disappear.

Well, Sadiq, they won’t. Every day that you delay with acting like a mayor the questions grow and the Garden Bridge costs go up. Until you take control, fulfill your promises and STOP the Garden Bridge the public risk, damage to democratic process and your reputation all suffer.

 

WHERE’S THE SUNSHINE, SADIQ?

Will Hurst, Managing Editor and journalist at The Architects’ Journal, has been doggedly uncovering information about the Garden Bridge since before the fixed procurement. In these following paragraphs, first published here in the AJ, he calls on “shameful” Sadiq to urgently fix his many broken promises:

“Having pledged shortly after his election to ‘let the sunshine in’ on TfL’s murky Garden Bridge procurement, London Mayor Sadiq Khan is showing no sign of launching the real investigation he promised, says Will Hurst.”

“Back then, Khan was pledging to scrap the Heatherwick Studio-designed project, calling it ‘another of Boris Johnson’s white elephants’ which did not provide public value for money. A year ago, while campaigning to be mayor of London, Sadiq Khan called for a ‘proper investigation’ into the procurement of the Garden Bridge following revelations made by the AJ.”

“Things have certainly changed since then. Not only has Khan been elected, he’s also become a reluctant supporter of the £185 million project – chiefly it seems because with around £40 million of public money already spent, he’s concluded that it would cost Londoners more to cancel construction of the bridge than it would to build it.”

“Whether or not you agree with his analysis (critics say it an example of throwing good money after bad or the ‘sunk cost fallacy’), you can see where he’s coming from. Psychologically, at least, it is difficult to accept the writing-off of such an eye-watering sum with nothing to show for it.”

“But this doesn’t explain Khan’s shameful failure to make good on his promise of an investigation into the project’s procurement. After all, the bridge itself and the bureaucratic process by which its designers were appointed are two separate things. And, just as the cost of the Garden Bridge project has steadily mounted, so have questions about the fairness and the legality of the two 2013 Transport for London (TfL) contests that saw Heatherwick Studio and Arup appointed.”

 

“On this, Khan seems to say one thing and do quite another. A year ago, when the AJ showed him a leaked TfL audit report on the procurement, which was far more critical than the published version, he positively leapt on it, claiming a ‘whitewash’ had taken place.”

“The document, he said, raised serious questions about the process and suggested that TfL’s own rules had been ‘repeatedly broken’.”

“He concluded: ‘Boris Johnson urgently needs to explain why this report was whitewashed and by whom. And the project needs to be shelved until we have a proper investigation into this mess.’”

 

“He made a further call for ‘full transparency’ a month before his election, and shortly after it made yet another promise in an attempt to distance himself from the murky behaviour of his predecessor, saying ‘the early days of this project clearly fell short of our expectations on transparency’, and pledging to ‘let the sunshine in’.”

“At that stage, Khan did publish the previously undisclosed business plan for the Garden Bridge alongside a list of its funders but – four months on from his grand announcement – not even the merest glimmer of mayoral sunshine has illuminated its shadowy political gestation.”

“And as MP Kate Hoey said last week during the Commons debate she instigated on the Garden Bridge, we are talking here about a project that has set a ‘dangerous precedent’ by evading the normal scrutiny reserved for publicly funded projects because it is being delivered by a charity and is thus outside the purview of the National Audit Office.”

“Thanks to this, as well as the mayor’s broken promises, it now falls to TfL’s external auditor, Ernst & Young, to investigate. The same Ernst & Young that is a founding donor of the Garden Bridge Trust. So where exactly is the sunshine, Sadiq?”

 

MAYORAL QUESTIONS

There are a number of questions for Sadiq today. Most are written answers, for which we hope he responds promptly, and one, Len Duvall’s, is to be answered in the chamber today. Most of the questions, and the ones that really ask the most of Sadiq, are from Caroline Pidgeon, Lib Dem AM who has been at the forefront of the political drive to understand the Garden Bridge.

 

Question from Len Duvall, Labour AM

 

Question from Tom Copley, Labour AM

 

Questions from Caroline Pidgeon, LIb Dem AM

 

Question from Florence Eshalomi, Labour AM

 

Question from Peter Whittle, Ukip AM

 


 

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