Statement from Cllr Stephen Cowan following the Government’s announcement relating to funding the repair of Hammersmith Bridge:
Today's announcement demonstrates the contempt this Government, and its absurdly named Taskforce, has for the people of southwest London. It is simply more of the same party-political game playing that has characterised its approach throughout.
Hammersmith Bridge is one of the world’s oldest mechanical suspension bridges and one of the most expensive in Britain to repair. Yet the Government is seeking to impose an unprecedented 33% of the cost on Hammersmith & Fulham. That is tens of millions of pounds more than any other London council has ever paid for bridge repairs and comes on top of the record £8.6m we are already paying.
When I met Grant Shapps MP, the Secretary of State for Transport, on 25 November, I thought he was joking when he complained we had managed to deliver low council tax. He argued our residents could afford a significant hike in their council tax to pay for this ancient piece of London infrastructure – a rise that would cost each taxpayer an additional £800 a year. I explained that we will never do that.
The vast majority of funding for the repair of London bridges has always come from Transport for London who never ask councils to pay more than 15% of much lower repair bills. That’s why over the last decade the total combined spend of the 32 London councils on all London’s road and river Bridges is around £100m in total.
The Government’s Taskforce has spent the last nine months quashing any progress. The Chair has consistently refused to allow any detailed discussion of financing options and stopped her officials from undertaking any practical work on the toll options rendering her Taskforce little more than a useless talking shop.
Six months ago, H&F Council unveiled the radical Foster + Partners/ COWI temporary double-decker plan which would reduce the total cost by £40m and see the bridge reopened to motor vehicles three years earlier than currently planned.
Five months ago, we proposed a toll or road charge to fund the complete repair and restoration of Hammersmith Bridge.
And 102 days ago, we delivered the Outline Financial Plan which set out the detailed rationale but despite our chasing haven’t had a response.
These proposals - all of which are ignored in today’s announcement - provide the best value for local and national taxpayers and deliver on the bridge reopening to all traffic, including pedestrians, cyclists public transport, and motor vehicles, supporting people on both sides of the river and beyond.
Councillor Stephen Cowan
Leader of the Council
London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham
Hammersmith Town Hall
London W6 9JU
Tel: 020 87532018
Original statement here: