London Labour MP Kate Hoey has written to the head of the National Audit Office (NAO) to demand a full review of the controversial Garden Bridge and for the project to be halted in the meantime.
What the bridge might look like, eventually
It follows mayor Sadiq Khan’s disclosure last week that the Garden Bridge Trust has already spent £37.7m of public funding. Mr Khan said it would now cost taxpayers more to cancel the project for a footbridge across the Thames than to build it.
In a letter to Sir Amyas Morse, the comptroller and auditor general at the NAO, Ms Hoey, MP for the riverside constituency of Vauxhall, wrote: ‘Where has this money gone?
‘There has been no accountability or visibility on how the funds have been spent to date, especially given that the bridge is not even ready to commence building yet.’
She added: ‘The most fundamental question is how could such a significant amount of money be spent in the Mayors (sic) own words “for no benefit at all”.
‘I am extremely very concerned that if the NAO does not step in at this point of time it will seriously damage its reputation for assuming accountability of oversight of public finances.’
A Garden Bridge Trust spokesperson said: ‘The public money that has been spent so far has been used by the Trust to develop the scheme to the stage where we have appointed a contractor, detailed design work has taken place and the Bridge has secured planning permission. That work is crucial in enabling the project to secure large investment from the private sector.
‘The £37.7m public money that has been spent since the project began includes securing necessary consents, progressing detailed design work, undertaking ground and river investigations, professional fees and developing parts of the bridge off-site.’
The NAO said it would 'respond in due course'.
The £60m of public money supporting the project, which is estimated to cost £175m, is split evenly between Transport for London (TfL) and central government. Of TfL’s £30m contribution, £20m, is in the form of a long-term loan.