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Sadiq Khan has recruited Margaret Hodge to lead a new Garden Bridge procurement probe, but London Assembly members are questioning the plan

Mark Sands
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Margaret Hodge Speaks At Local Government Association Conference
Hodge chaired the public accounts committee until last summer (Source: Getty)

London mayor Sadiq Khan has recruited the former chair of parliament's public spending watchdog to lead an inquiry into the Garden Bridge project.

Margaret Hodge will review whether taxpayers have got value for money from the £185m footbridge, which is being being supported by £60m of public money from Westminster and Transport for London.

Among other groups, Hodge will look at the roles of TfL and the Greater London Authority in procurement process around the bridge.

Khan has previously talked about scrapping the project, but following his election as London mayor, Khan said it would cost taxpayers more to cancel construction than to go ahead.

A spokesman for Khan told City A.M. that position remains unchanged, but added that Khan was keen to see more transparency around the funding for the project.

Read More: Vauxhall MP slams Garden Bridge project

Announcing the review, he said: “I am absolutely clear that no new London taxpayers’ funds should be committed to the Garden Bridge, but I’m also determined that the Garden Bridge review helps the project achieve higher standards of accountability and transparency it has so far been lacking.”

The review itself will cost £25,000, with the GLA and TfL providing non-financial support.

The Garden Bridge Trust and TfL have welcomed the review, but London Assembly members have questioned the decision to further delay the project.

Read More: Completing Garden Bridge "in financial interest" of Londoners says Khan

Conservative Assembly member Andrew Boff said he would scrap the project "tomorrow", but added: "The London Assembly has closely examined every aspect of the Garden Bridge project, and the procurement process was never the real issue.

"Ultimately we're left with a mayor who was originally opposed to the Garden Bridge, then in favour so long as no more taxpayer money was spent on it, now he has chosen to waste time and money on a review.

"Given he has held every position possible on the Garden Bridge he should just pick one and finally make a decision."

And Lib Dem assembly member Caroline Pidgeon said the mayor should instead axe guarantees of public money for upkeep of the bridge if the Garden Bridge Trust is unable to meet the costs through its own fundraising.

"[Khan's] current stance of providing a permanent taxpayer bailout to pay for the maintenance of the bridge while claiming to never provide any further public funding for the project is utter nonsense and indefensible," she said.

Read More: Uncertainty over Garden Bridge as pleading letter counters funding problems

Separately, the Charities Commission is also in dialogue with the Garden Bridge Trust following a complaint from Vauxhall MP Kate Hoey over transparency for donations to the project. It has yet to decide whether to launch a full investigation of the trust.

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