London Garden Bridge Project Finally Scrapped

We were never sure about the whole concept of the London Garden Bridge, which seemed in the main a vanity project for the London Mayor of the time Boris Johnson and actress Joanna Lumley. Most local residents didn’t want it, and many people objected about the public money going into it, without much in the way of independent debate or governance around the project.

The current mayor, Sadiq Khan, was less keen and in April he said he would not provide the vital financial guarantees needed for construction to begin. That seemed to spell the beginning of the end, and yesterday the charity set up to build the bridge formally announced that end. As reported in the Guardian:

“The Garden Bridge Trust said on Monday that it had told Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, as well as Transport for London (TfL) and the Department for Transport, of its decision, taken due to a lack of support for the project from Khan”.

As well as our doubts about the project conceptually, we were horrified by the procurement process followed which ended up with the appointment of Heatherwick as designers and Arup as project managers for the Bridge. The Transport for London (TfL) procurement was just awful, going against pretty much every element of good practice and compliance to regulations.

The audit report from TfL itself was almost unbelievable for any procurement professional to read as a litany of poor practice – a lack of documentation, treating different suppliers differently, changing the evaluation process half way through and so on. It is worth reading our article we wrote at the time in 2015 and the comments made by readers on it if you’re interested in knowing more.

To be fair, one TfL procurement executive did raise concerns at the time but was, we imagine, clearly just told to “get lost” by certain senior executives. As well as the audit report, there was the an investigation by Dame Margaret Hodge. As the Guardian reported on that document:

“Hodge’s report found that his deputy mayor for transport, Isabel Dedring, and Transport for London’s director of planning, Richard de Cani, saw to it that the choice of Lumley’s team of Thomas Heatherwick and engineering giant Arup was a foregone conclusion. The team was allowed to revise their bid while their competitors were not, the scoring was found to be irregular, while de Cani admitted that he alone judged the bids.

In a move that raised concerns over conflict of interest, both Dedring and de Cani now enjoy senior positions at Arup, where most of the £37.4m of public funding spent to date has been funnelled; TfL and the department for transport have both denied any such conflict and Arup gave assurances to Hodge which she accepted”.

There are now calls for the public money already spent to be repaid by those who benefitted from it, but that won’t happen and probably shouldn’t – whatever we think about the procurement process, and indeed the whole project, you can’t really blame Arup or Heatherwick for accepting the work. But at least no more money will be wasted.

First Voice

  1. Dan:

    Why no one has been investigated for malfeasance in public office is beyond me. Tens of £millions wasted because the Mayor wanted to do a favour for an old friend.

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