Boris Johnson Asked To Pay Back £3,200 After Failing To Honour Game Of Table Tennis

Nicola Slawson

Boris Johnson has been asked to pay back more than £3,000 out of his own pocket, after taxpayers were left to pick up the tab for a fundraising gift he failed to honour.

The prize was for a game of ping-pong with the former Mayor of London and was bid on as part of a fundraiser for the failed Garden Bridge project.

Londonwide Assembly Member, Tom Copley, has written to Johnson to ask him to reimburse taxpayers after they were left to pick up the tab.

The full scale of the cost of the Garden Bridge to the taxpayer was unveiled in March when it was revealed that £43 million of public funds had been wasted.

This included £21 million spent on contractors, despite the necessary land not being secured, and £9.5 million on designer fees. At the time, Copley publicly called for the Garden Bridge Trust to pay back the costs.

In a letter to the ex-foreign secretary, Copley said: “As we unpick the mess left behind [by the Garden Bridge], we have uncovered that the taxpayer has been asked to pay back £3,200 for a game of table tennis with you (or ‘whiff whaff’ as you call it) that was bought by a Garden Bridge donor.

“Due to your failure to honour the game, and because the Garden Bridge Trust folded, taxpayers have had to pick up the tab. This will sting taxpayers already angry at the amount of money - which could have been allocated to more vital needs - that has been squandered.”

Copley reminded Johnson, who has said he will run in the Tory leadership race when Theresa May steps down, that he once claimed his £250,000 (now £275,000) annual salary for his Telegraph columns was mere “chickenfeed” and suggested Johnson would be in a position to pay back the money from his personal funds. 

“Your personal determination for this endeavour to see fruition was apparent for all to see,” he said. “However, when you advocate so strongly for a project which bears such a significant cost to the public purse, you bear significant accountability.

“Therefore, I urge you once again to do the right thing and pay this £3,200 back to Londoners.”

The London Assembly is continuing its scrutiny of the Garden Bridge project and has set up a working group, chaired by Copley.

In a statement, Copley said the Garden Bridge was Johnson’s “baby” and so he must be held accountable.

“Taxpayers are rightly furious that such huge sums of their money have been frittered away, particularly at a time when austerity has had a crippling impact on other areas of public spending,” he said.

“Boris Johnson bragged that his 250k Telegraph column was mere ‘chickenfeed’, so I can’t possibly see any reason as to why he wouldn’t be able to pay back this amount.

“There are many more questions to be answered about Boris Johnson’s, and others, role in this doomed vanity project – but there’s an opportunity here for him to do the right thing. I’d urge him to take this first, small, step towards making amends.”

Johnson has been approached by HuffPost UK for a comment. 

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