The Olympic Stadium Debacle

4 Dec

Cllr Conor McAuley

Councillor Conor McAuley has written to all members of the council about the Olympic stadium disaster.

Prior to 2014, Cllr McAuley sat in Sir Robin’s cabinet as Executive Member for Regeneration & Strategic Planning. He was also on the planning committee of the Olympic Delivery Authority and the planning decisions committee of the London Legacy Development Corporation.

Colleagues,

I cannot be the only Council member appalled at the loss of £52.2 million invested by this Council into the Olympic Stadium.

To make matters worse, the statements and press releases from Newham Council on the matter have only sought to mislead both elected members of the Council and the public.

Mayor Wales tells us that he is “angry that the deals and decisions made by the former Mayor of London and his administration have left the stadium finances in such a dreadful mess”. 

This is an outrageous attempt by Robin Wales to wash his hands of responsibility for his role in this mess. The E20 LLP company was established in 2012 as a joint vehicle for the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) and Newham Legacy Investments to “deliver the post-Olympic Games transformation and operation of the Stadium.”

Newham Council were partners in this disaster with the LLDC. In the years since the incorporation of this partnership Newham members or officers have, as board members, jointly signed off the E20 LLP accounts. (Robin Wales in 2014, Kim Bromley-Derry in 2015 and Cllr Lester Hudson in 2016).

So, to try to pin all the blame on Boris Johnson, just doesn’t work.

Astonishingly, at the time of its launch Sir Robin was so proud of this partnership and certain of its future success that he told us “even on the most disastrous figures, even if everything goes wrong we still make a profit on this. The risk is really, really minimal.”

It is claimed that the Newham Vision for the stadium was a determination to avoid a post-Olympic “white elephant”. 

The definition of a “white elephant” is a possession which its owner cannot dispose of and whose cost, particularly that of maintenance, is out of proportion to its usefulness.

This is exactly what we now have, the only difference is that a wealthy Premiership football club is getting a subsidised use of the stadium and we have been picking up the bill.

We can’t even claim a success in creating stadium related employment for local residents.

When Newham made the initial investment, it was claimed that up to 75% of the jobs created at the Stadium would go to Newham residents. A recent Freedom of Information response tells us that the total number of jobs created at the stadium currently is 1,531. The number of Newham residents employed on full time contracts is 15 out of 70 jobs (21.4%) and the number of Newham residents employed on casual contracts is 469 out of 1,461 jobs (32.1%). Nothing like the promised figure of 75%.

Sir Robin tells us that we can retain our “community benefits” as part of his agreement with Mayor Khan.

We don’t need a stadium to organise community events like the Great Newham Run and a few free tickets to Guns ‘n Roses concerts are a poor return for our £52.2 million.

The regeneration of the Stratford Rail Lands was always based on the Westfield and Lend Lease developments. Not the Olympic Games. The permanent new jobs have come from Westfield and more recently from the new Lend Lease developments. New homes continue to be built on the site. 

The Olympic Games accelerated the delivery of new homes in what we now call the East Village. The games also gave us a great park and world class sporting facilities in the Velodome, the Aquatic Centre and the Copper Box. The Games also focussed attention on Newham and East London generally and we benefitted from new and improved transport links and increased visitor numbers.

Some seek to defend the £52.2 million investment by attributing these regeneration benefits to the stadium, which really is nonsense.

If West Ham United had wanted a new stadium with a 60,000 capacity, they should have been asked to pay the appropriate price. Newham and London tax payers should not be picking up any of the bill. 

Over the years Sir Robin has been a regular recipient of hospitality at West Ham matches, perhaps he can convey that message back to Messrs Gold and Sullivan and Baroness Brady when he next attends a West Ham home game.

Sir Robin claims that the stadium deal unlocked the Boleyn site and enabled the Council to buy 211 of the new homes being developed at that location. The Council could have used its money to buy a similar number of new homes on one of the many other sites being developed in the borough. 

If Sir Robin had really been interested in providing affordable homes for Newham residents, he could of course have spent the £52.5million on the Carpenters estate in Stratford bringing the empty homes there back into use for social housing and helping Newham to reduce its growing list of homeless people.

There remains one thing I don’t quite understand. Why was it ever Newham’s responsibility to sort out the future of the Olympic Stadium?

I expect in the months running up to the election in May, more and more of our voters will be asking that question when we knock on their doors asking for their votes. Newham borrowed the money to invest in the stadium, so our Council taxpayers will be paying this particular bill for years to come.

How exactly can we reassure them that the Labour Party can be trusted with their money?

Yours in frustration,

Conor McAuley

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One Response to “The Olympic Stadium Debacle”

  1. Birdman December 4, 2017 at 13:08 #

    It is also worth saying that in the run up to the Olympic Games bidding run off, SRW and his councillors were stating quite strongly that the regeneration was not dependent on the games and it would go ahead if the UK lost the bid. Whilst there is not too much point in speculating as to the pace of that regeneration it was quite clear that was the case. At the time I opposed the Olympic bid and still think it was an obvious financial crisis in the making. The lack of jobs for Newham residents generated by the games and the aftermath are palpable and the vast majority of the housing is completely out of the reach of local people. It has all been one big vanity project and the sight of Labour politicians such as SRW trying to cosy up to the rich and connected is just sickening.

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