The Times has reported that Grant Shapps has ordered LBHF to pay £64 million towards the repair of Hammersmith Bridge.
From The Times:
Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, told Hammersmith & Fulham council, which is run by Labour, that the money would be needed to open the bridge, suggesting that it could be raised through a council tax increase or by raiding its reserves.
The council said the demand was a “cruel, unusual and unprecedented punishment” for the authority, which has owned the bridge only since 1985.
Stephen Cowan, the council leader, said the bill was out of the authority’s reach and far more than was in its available cash reserves. The bill could also mean extra an £800 in tax for each local resident, more than double an annual band A council tax charge.
The demand was also said to be out of step with contributions demanded from councils for large bridge repairs elsewhere in the country. The authority pointed out that the government has funded between 77 and 94 per cent of bridge upgrades in areas such as Northumberland, Cleveland, Warwickshire, Staffordshire and Dudley this year.
This takes the whole saga of the bridge to new levels of political tomfoolery. The demand is clearly unrealistic, and can only be designed to make Hammersmith & Fulham look unreasonable when they say they won't (or can't) pay.
Meanwhile, waiting in the wings is the utterly dishonest Stephen Bailey, the Tory candidate for Mayor of London, who will no doubt try to make political capital out of this. He has promised a number of times that he has secured funding for the repairs - which is clearly untrue.
So much for Grant Shapps's Taskforce, which was supposedly formed to get the repairs done. The need for the bridge to be repaired - at least to the stage where people can cross it on foot or by bicycle - is urgent, and yet they are still wasting time with politically motivated nonsense like this.
Posted on 14th December 2020