London mayor Sadiq Khan today claimed it would cost the taxpayer twice as much to cancel the planned Garden bridge across the Thames as it would to allow the £150m project to proceed.
Last week Mr Khan announced his backing for the scheme, despite previously suggesting he would block it if elected to succeed Boris Johnson.
Backed by actress Joanna Lumley, the £1575m bridge is being majority funded by private, charitable and commercial donors but is also receiving £60m of public funds pledged by Mr Johnson and the Department for Transport.
Mr Khan’s decision to continue with the scheme proved unpopular with some local campaigners and Green party members of the London Assembly who claimed there was “no case for the Garden Bridge on transport, horticulture or tourism grounds.”
Appearing before the Assembly on Wednesday for the first Mayor’s Question Time of his term, Mr Khan said his decision was based on securing the best value for taxpayers.
Figures published by the Mayor’s office show that £37.7 million of the pledged public funds have already been spent, none of which could be recouped if the project was scrapped.
However City Hall claims that allowing the bridge to proceed will see £20m of the TfL funding repaid and the payment of approximately £22 million in VAT to the Treasury.
Allowing for both sets of receipts, the final cost to the taxpayer would fall from £60m to just £18m.
Mr Khan said “it was quite clearly in London taxpayers’ financial interest to complete the Garden Bridge project” but reiterated his demands for greater public access in return for his support.
However Labour AM Flo Eshalomi, who represents Lambeth and Southwark on the Assembly, said she remained unconvinced about the scheme’s merits and called for greater engagement with local residents.