Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has reiterated his support for the construction of the Garden Bridge, insisting that "the taxpayer will be better off if the bridge is built". His stance has been branded "illogical and indefensible" by a London Assembly member.
Responding to questions tabled by Liberal Democrat London Assembly member Caroline Pidgeon, Sadiq Khan said: "I have been clear that I back construction of the Garden Bridge, subject to no new public funding that I control being put toward to the project.
"The position that I set out in May last year remains true, that given previous expenditure, the taxpayer will be better off if the bridge is built."
Referring to TfL's intention to transfer £10 million to the Garden Bridge Trust in the coming financial year, Mr Khan said: "These payments form part of the existing public funding commitment to the Garden Bridge made by my predecessor and are not further funding for the project.
"TfL's period 9 finance report explains that £10 million which was originally expected to be paid to the Garden Bridge Trust during the 2016/17 financial year is now forecast to be paid in 2017/18."
Answering another question, the Mayor added: "I have been clear that I will not allow any guarantees to be entered into for the maintenance and operation of the Garden Bridge unless I am convinced that this will not lead to further public expenditure at some point. It is up to the Garden Bridge Trust to demonstrate this in its business plan and any related documents."
Caroline Pidgeon AM told the SE1 website: "Sadiq Khan’s position on the Garden Bridge is illogical and indefensible.
"He claims to be committed to not providing any further public funding for the Garden Bridge yet at the same time he is allowing TfL to hand over another £10 million of public money.
"Most significantly he still remains committed to providing a permanent guarantee for the maintenance and operation of the Garden Bridge.
"I just hope that soon the Mayor finally understands that the only absolute way to ensure that future generations of taxpayers do not have to pick up the annual maintenance and operation bill for the Garden Bridge is by making a decision to not provide a taxpayer funded guarantee."
Mr Khan's continued support for the Garden Bridge comes as Dame Margaret Hodge MP is carrying out a review of the value-for-money of the public funding contribution to the controversial £185 million project.