Boris Johnson Accused Of Misleading Public Over Garden Bridge Costs

Rachel Holdsworth
By Rachel Holdsworth Last edited 33 months ago
Boris Johnson Accused Of Misleading Public Over Garden Bridge Costs

Image by ARUP.

Remember how the Garden Bridge wasn't going to cost us any money? How it was all going to be financed by private sponsors? Then the Treasury and Transport for London stumped up £30m each, and now it turns out TfL will underwrite the £3.5m a year maintenance costs, despite public assurances by Boris Johnson that such a thing would not happen.

During a Mayor's Question Time session in December 2014, Johnson replied to a question from Caroline Pidgeon about whether TfL would provide a guarantee for maintenance costs, in case the Garden Bridge Trust (GBT) failed to raise the necessary funds. The Mayor replied:

"I can confirm that no such agreement has been made and nor will I make any undertaking to do so."

In Tuesday's Ask Boris session on LBC he made a similar promise that "the maintenance cost will not be borne by the public sector". However, it's since transpired that a letter (PDF) dated 18 February from Fiona Fletcher Smith, Boris's Executive Director of Development and Environment, to the GBT, says that the Mayor has "agreed in principle to provide such a guarantee". They still need to work out the exact situations under which TfL/City Hall would be expected to pay or make up any shortfall, but it's clear that the guarantee — which was a condition imposed by Westminster City Council before it would grant planning permission — has been given to speed the project ahead.

It's bad enough that £60m of public money is being ploughed into what's basically a tourist attraction, with no public access at night or on 12 days a year for fundraising events, plus the expectation that you'll need to queue just to get on it at busy times (i.e., it fails in some of the essential functions of just being a bridge), but now we're all on the hook for its upkeep, too. Labour Assembly Member John Biggs has a point when he says:

"Boris Johnson has been caught red handed misleading Londoners, promising that maintenance costs won’t be borne by the public sector whilst at the same time drawing up plans to do exactly that. This fiasco shows how little Boris Johnson’s word is worth. In east London, where we desperately need new river crossings, the Mayor expects people to pay a toll. For the Garden Bridge, a scheme which is little more than a tourist attraction, he is willing for taxpayers to underwrite millions of pounds each year in costs."

Last Updated 05 March 2015

TCOSLondon

We're doing our best to stop this vanity project by raising funds for legal fees: this is our only chance to prevent a huge waste of public money for many years to come at the hands of a deceitful mayor & his celebrity friends! Help us here thanks: everyclick.com/tcos

John Smith

This is disgusting, as if London needs yet another bridge

James McEvoy

Its called the "Bait and Switch", which is a classic fraudster's tactic. They did the same with the "boris bikes". At first they said it would be entirely privately funded, but when the scheme actually started, it was only a small percentage of the overall costs that were paid for privately, the majority of the funding was taxpayers money.

m

How much do they expect to raise each year via the corporate events? Does it compare to the 3.5m? Also, we subsidise all of our parks (obviously).

Nicolas Chinardet

Similar to what he did with the hire bikes and the Dangleway (both were apparently going to happen without taxpayer's money being involved).

Greg Tingey

Ah the dead & withered spindly wreckage bridge
Dead & dying plants, blasted by wind & salt spray.
About as useful & expensive as the Arab-fly Dangleway.
Boris is SO GOOD on transport isn't he - cance3lling even the planning for tram schemes.
Grrr

John Smith

Driverless tube trains should be the priority