When I first heard about the garden bridge project, I was quite supportive. A large bridge over the Thames which would be a garden and woodland escape from the noise and bustle of the capital of the country appealed.
It would also be a major tourist attraction and probably, as most things innovative and British, I am sure large cities across the world would copy this new concept.
The project caused a great stir amongst the media as it was initially proposed by the actress Joanna Lumley. Thomas Heatherwick an architect worked with an engineering company called Arup on the proposal for Transport for London. It was set to be funded largely by private funding garnered from donations through charitable gift aid. Construction costs, as at April 2017 were estimated to be £170 million.
Sadly, as the way of a lot of innovative British ideas, the cost and funding took over the wonderful fantasy of trees flowers beds of lilies and sunflowers. The bridge therefore got cancelled as costs were estimated to rise to well over £200 million.
Much speculation was made about what the expenditure had been made to get the design, planning and basic plans for this bridge to the point where it was abandoned. As usual no clarity was ever given and the project ended its life in April 2017.
There then ensued a public row between Boris Johnson, the previous Mayor of London, and Sadiq Khan the current Mayor. Boris blamed Khan for pulling the plug on the project and “killing it”, Khan said Londoners should be “very angry” at wasted monies expended on the failed bridge. It was said then that approximately £37 million had been spent.
£26 million from the Department of Transport and £11 million from the Transport for London department was spent. £8.4 million was given to the company engineering company Arup.
Revised figures out recently put the spend at more than £53.5 million.
Taking the lower figure of £37 million pounds. This was spent on what exactly? People reading this will agree that this is an enormous amount of money. No bricks were laid, no steel structures made for the bridge, no plants or trees planted. There is no bridge, there is no entrance to the bridge, no drawings of it. There is nothing now whatsoever to tell anyone that this bridge was even a seed of an idea in the mind of an actress.
Where is the money? Where are the accounts and who got paid and how much and for what activity or service did they get £37 millions?
Someone in an office somewhere pressed the BACS transfer button from one account to another or signed off a cheque that would allow funds to be sent. Who sent the money or signed the cheques?
It seems as other things which have happened involving large amounts of public money that there is simply no accountability. No one loses a job or is at the very least demoted.
Remember “Kids Company”? Millions of pounds were given to the owner and founder, the very colourful Camila Batmanghelidjh of this charity. Oliver Letwin was the minister who authorized payments totalling £3 million for an emergency restructure into the Kids Club account from Government. This was literally days before it shut up shop and ceased to be.
Who has lost their job over that, who was responsible, where are the accounts for that failed company? Where is the money? Who got it, it was millions, has anyone chased the money, where did it go within days of landing into the account before the company ceased to be? It was alleged that most of that money went to pay salaries owed to staff, what £3 million? This cannot be and you just have to wonder what the hell happened to all that money.
The current HS2 project has uprooted many people already in both homes and businesses. It has caused heartache and serious problems to many people, not withstanding the many thousands of others who are seeing their homes and businesses and land compulsory purchased.
Estimates for the railway (which will get you from London to Birmingham a whole half hour quicker) were originally around £58 billion. This is now reported to be nearer £110 billion and rising. You can bet your bottom dollar it will be much more than £110 billion by the time the trains get going.
There is now though a growing unrest about the project and some MPs are calling for it to be scrapped. How much has been spent so far? Millions have gone already to PR companies, who, what, where and when. As per usual we will not get to know. There is one thing for sure, someone has got very wealthy out of this.
There is no accountability. No one loses their jobs, no one assumes or takes responsibility for vast sums of monies literally disappearing from the public purse.