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Saturday 29th
posted by Morning Star in Britain

by Felicity Collier

LABOUR Mayor of London Sadiq Khan pulled his support for the controversial “Garden Bridge” yesterday after it was revealed that more than £37 million of public money had already been spent.

The project for a Thames Crossing received backing from Tory MP Boris Johnson during his time as mayor after his actor friend Joanna Lumley lobbied him in 2012.

Mr Khan has refused to sign off plans with concerns about the rising costs for taxpayers.

He said London could be left with a half-built bridge that would have to be completed or demolished if the project went ahead.

The bridge is still only halfway funded with planning permission due to expire in December.

The mayor’s decision followed a damning report earlier this month that recommended ditching the new bridge.

In the report, Labour MP Margaret Hodge said it was “difficult to justify further public investment” in the bridge, as it was expected to cost more than £200m in total when it was initially estimated to cost £60m.

The Garden Bridge Trust, set up with funds from Transport for London, is now reviewing its options and intends to continue — but faces a major challenge in finding another organisation to take it on.

Mr 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.

“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 news was hugely welcomed by library campaigners Defend The Ten in Lambeth, where the bridge would be built.

The group has long been critical of the council’s approval of the scheme, as it wants to see funds go towards a fully public library.

The group tweeted yesterday: “£37m — garden bridge spend to date. £3.2m — Lambeth annual library budget. Today’s news? Priceless.”

Lambeth Labour councillor Rachel Heywood said: “Now [time for] an investigation into disgraceful waste of public funds — with all the rigour that was absent from this.”