The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has today written to the Chair of the Garden Bridge Trust informing him that the GLA will not be providing Mayoral guarantees for the Garden Bridge project.

In a letter to Lord Mervyn Davies today, the Mayor outlined his view that the continuation of the project will expose the London taxpayer to additional financial risk, both with regard to the bridge’s construction and its operation and maintenance.

Before making the decision, the Mayor analysed the findings of Dame Margaret Hodge’s independent review into the Garden Bridge project, and assessed all the information available about the project to date.

During the Mayoral campaign and since his election last year, the Mayor has repeatedly stated that he would not agree to any more of London taxpayers’ money for which he is responsible being spent on the Garden Bridge project. He had also made clear that he would not provide any Mayoral guarantees unless he was convinced that the project would not lead to additional public expenditure down the line.

In outlining the reasons for the Mayor’s decision not to provide any Mayoral guarantees, today’s letter outlines a number of ways in which the project would expose the London taxpayer to additional financial risk. These include:

  • increasing capital costs of the project;
  • the risk of the bridge only being partially built; and
  • doubts over the establishment of an endowment fund to help meet future maintenance costs.

Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan said “Under the previous Mayor, a considerable amount of London taxpayers’ money has already been spent on the Garden Bridge. I have always been clear that not a penny more of taxpayers’ money should be allocated to the project.

“Having assessed all the information available to me including the findings of Dame Margaret Hodge’s independent review, my view is that providing Mayoral guarantees will expose the London taxpayer to too much additional financial risk.

“With planning permission due to expire this year, many outstanding issues remain, including spiralling construction costs and doubts around funding the maintenance of the bridge.

“The funding gap is now at over £70m and it appears unlikely that the Trust will succeed in raising the private funds required for the project. I am simply not prepared to risk a situation where the taxpayer has to step in and contribute significant additional amounts to ensure the project is completed.”

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has used his first Mayor’s Question Time to lay bare the finances of the Garden Bridge.

Sadiq Khan said it would cost taxpayers more than twice as much to cancel the project now, as it would to complete it and build the new bridge.

TfL and the Government have previously committed £30 million each to the Garden Bridge Trust’s £175m project – with the remainder raised through private donations. Of the £30 million pledged by TfL, £20 million is in the form of a loan to be repaid in full.

Sadiq Khan revealed that of the £60 million total of taxpayers money pledged, £37.7 million has already been spent by the Garden Bridge Trust. If the project was scrapped now, this amount would be lost in full with no benefit at all for Londoners or taxpayers.

However, if the Garden Bridge is completed, not only will TfL be repaid its £20 million loan by the Garden Bridge Trust, but they will also pay approximately £22 million in VAT to the Treasury. That means the ultimate bill to taxpayers for completing the bridge will be £18 million – less than half the cost of cancelling the project now.

On this understanding, Sadiq Khan has given his support to the completion of the Garden Bridge but has demanded that it is made more accessible for all Londoners in return. Last week he called on the Garden Bridge Trust to ensure:

The Bridge to be closed for fewer days each year for private fundraising events – the current plans are for 12 closures a year.

The Bridge to be closed for fewer hours each time it has to close for fundraising events, so that the Bridge can still be used in the morning and evenings – the current plans are for it to be closed from midnight to midnight.

A guarantee that children at local schools on either side of the river will get to visit the Garden Bridge and be involved in planting and maintenance – with a rolling programme of events for local school children.

The Garden Bridge Trust to build a strong working relationship with all of London’s parks, so that seeds and plants grown on the Garden Bridge can then be replanted in parks across the capital – ensuring it has a positive benefit for all Londoners.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said “From the point at which I became Mayor, it was quite clearly in London taxpayers’ financial interest to complete the Garden Bridge project. It would simply cost Londoners more to cancel the project now, than it would to finish building the Garden Bridge.

“If the Bridge was cancelled now taxpayers will have spent £37.7 million for no benefit at all. However if we complete the project and our loan is repaid in full then the ultimate cost to taxpayers will be under half that cost at £18 million.

“So I will support the building of the Garden Bridge, but I am demanding that the project is made more accessible and open to all Londoners in return.

“I expect the Garden Bridge Trust to ensure that the Bridge be closed fewer days each year for private fundraising events and fewer hours when they do. I also want a guarantee that an ongoing programme of visits will be laid on for local school children.”

This announcement comes after the recent realisation that this is becoming a steadily more unpopular project: 61% of Londoners are against it in the biggest poll so far, which has been running in the Evening Standard for the last month, with over 4,000 participants. Whatever your opinion on the project is, it is certainly a bridge over troubled water!