Chair of public accounts committee slams Treasury over lack of proper business case

The head of the Public Accounts Committee has questioned the need for the Garden Bridge and slammed the government for failing to provide a rigorous analysis of the business case for the project.

In a letter to the Treasury’s permanent secretary Tom Scholar, dated 14 December, public accounts committee chair Meg Hillier MP called the project an “extravagant solution” to the need to link Temple Station on the north bank of the Thames with the Southbank.

She added that suggested journey time savings and health benefits from the project “seem entirely tenuous”.

Hillier called funding for the project “inherently risky” and said there were “significant risks” involved with the scheme.

She added that she “remain concerned about the risk to taxpayers’ money and the commitments that were made to underwrite the project if it is cancelled”.

It comes after the committee asked the Treasury to provide it with an analysis of the Garden Bridge business case.

The committee subsequently received an analysis from a Treasury official by email on 17 November, but Hillier said it was “not clear from the note, which was not on headed paper or page numbered” if this was something that Scholar had signed off.

She said that the conclusion from the document said government ministers believe the Garden Bridge has a “reasonable prospect” of delivering value for money, but added: “I fail to understand how such an optimistic conclusion could be reached on delivering value for money.”

Hillier called for the Treasury to provide an analysis of the Garden Bridge business case “rather than a statement of facts and a commentary”.

The Garden Bridge Trust declined to comment, explaining: “The Trust was set up at the request of the TfL to deliver the project and we won’t comment on historical issues that happened before our time.”