Tag Archives: Olympic Stadium

Value for money?

24 May

By Iain Aitch

Is £4m per job good value for our money, Sir Robin?

The recent raids by HMRC at the London Stadium (Olympic Stadium in old money) may have had some Newham residents worrying about their £40m investment in West Ham’s new ground. The council tax-payer’s hard earned cash is due to be paid back over the next 40 years, but you may well wonder what we are getting for our investment, bar a few free tickets for Mayor Sir Robin Wales and his cabinet. 

With this in mind, I set about composing a Freedom of Information request, basing my questions on the promises made by the council. They were not forthcoming on the number of free tickets handed out, promising the information on the 100,000 promised would be made public at the end of the football season (which has already passed). 

But what was most interesting was the promise around jobs. The council promised up to 75% of jobs at the stadium would go to local residents. The reality is, ahem, somewhat different and wholly disappointing. The actual number is 20%. And full time jobs? Just 10 (ten). I make that 0.8% of total jobs at London Stadium. 

That makes £4m of investment per job. Of 1,207 jobs in total, this 10 is in addition to 253 Newham-ites on casual contracts. A pathetic return and, if chatter amongst old hands is anything to go by, this number may be reduced radically next season. 

You can see the FOI and stats for yourself here (HTML) or here (PDF).

Iain Aitch is an author and journalist who lives in Newham. He has written for the Guardian, Daily Telegraph, Sunday Times and Financial Times.

West Ham tickets – who’s getting them?

11 Oct

From the ‘Knees up Mother Brown’ website:

More than half the free tickets for West Ham United home matches distributed by Newham Council have gone to their own employees, it has been claimed.

From a total of 5,970 tickets handed out thus far by the Council as part of their arrangement with West Ham, just 2,728 reached members of the local community – with the remaining 3,242 being allocated to employees of Newham Council, according to a KUMB source.

The 3,242 tickets snapped up by Newham employees were used for the Europa League qualifiers against Domzale (1,433 tickets) and Astra Giurgiu (1,010) plus the recent EFL Cup tie with Accrington Stanley (799) – resulting in 55 per cent of the available tickets intended for local residents going to unnamed Council workers.

“Newham previously stated that ‘the tickets are used to reward residents for being active and resilient members of the community’,” said the source. 

“Lead councillors for each of our community neighbourhoods will have a role in managing these rewards, and settling the criteria for distributing tickets to their residents who are making a contribution to their community. 

“Why is it, that in each of the three games referred to, there were more tickets given to Newham Council staff than went to those ‘active and resilient members of the community’?”

Those ‘free’ tickets are among the supposed benefits of the £40 million ‘loan’ the council made to help cover the enormous cost of making the stadium ready for multi-millionaire-owned West Ham United.

Can anyone at the council explain this?

Return on investment

3 Sep

“If you look around the table and can’t tell who the sucker is – it’s you.”

The mayor has been on week-long trip to China with council chief executive Kim Bromley-Derry, paid for by Chinese developer ABP, and now he’s looking at investing in its Royal Albert Dock project.

The Newham Recorder asked him about the plans:

“We’re always looking at opportunities to invest in projects,” he said.

“…we will always look at opportunities to make money out of projects.

“Each project is judged on its merits of course, but if we can make money and there was an opportunity we’ll do it.”

Sadly this is not the first time the mayor has decided to use public money to play ‘Investment Bankers’ after being sold a dodgy business plan by a man in a shiny suit.

Back in 2012 the London Pleasure Gardens was, according to one of its directors

“going to be one of the coolest places to watch live sports, chill out and catch some amazing events.

“This isn’t just a commercial proposition – we want to be a whole new cultural hub for London and beyond.”

It turned out to be a fiasco that cost Newham council taxpayers close to £5 million for the five weeks it was open.

The company was bankrolled by a £3.3 million loan from the council, plus a further £800,000 because of interest and costs. The council also ended up paying £444,000 to Deloitte for administrators’ fees (graciously discounted from the £1 million they actually racked up) after the business went bust.

Unable to accept the reality of the situation a Newham council spokeswoman insisted:

“The council is continuing to discuss the future use of the site with relevant parties and remains confident that we will see a return on our investment.”

That, of course, never happened.

And awkward questions about what happened to the money, why what was delivered by LPG was so far from what was promised and the evidently hopeless quality of the due diligence carried out by council officers were never even asked by our feeble and supine councillors, much less addressed.

With £40 million of our money on the line with the Olympic stadium ‘loan’ and another £5 million already earmarked for ‘retail opportunities’ in the Queen Elizabeth Park councillors should be wary of indulging the mayor’s next investment fantasy.

Leading questions

27 Apr

Upton centre consultation

The council is ‘consulting’ on the future of the Upton Centre, which it suddenly closed late last year. One question – shown above – asks residents what their priority would be if the council had just over £4.4 million to spend on something; of course, redevelopment of the Upton Centre is right at the very bottom of the list of options.

When Sir Robin decided to bung £40 million – almost 10 times as much – into converting the Olympic stadium for the benefit of West Ham United FC and its multimillionaire owners, no such consultation took place.

And no-one was asked what they might prefer the council to spend such a vast sum on. 

UPDATE: The whole consultation is bogus. The bias is evident in the questions and in the assumptions that underlie them, as Caroline Tomes has explained on Storify.

Scroungers

3 Feb

In a piece in today’s Guardian on the failure of the 2012 Olympics to deliver a legacy of greater participation in sport David Conn observes

The real Olympic legacy winners, of course, are West Ham United, owned by David Sullivan and David Gold, who made their first fortunes in pornography. Next year the Premier League club will take charge of the Olympic stadium, built with £429m of public money, and for which the public is paying a further £160m to convert for West Ham. The club will pay rent, and stands to make a fortune from the 54,000-seat capacity – far more than than its current Upton Park home – and enhanced corporate feasting. Karren Brady, who has worked loyally for Sullivan all her career, negotiated this stadium deal of the century with London’s mayor, Boris Johnson, and has since been made a Conservative peer – Baroness Brady of Knightsbridge.

And a quarter of that £160m conversion cost is being met by the council taxpayers of Newham – local people who are struggling with falling wages and rising prices. Meanwhile, David Cameron promises to drive even more of them into poverty by cutting the benefits cap if his party wins in May.

But of course there’s no cap on handouts to the wealthy. Multimillionaire pornographers and their Tory chief executive can have their business subsidised by the taxpayer: it’s enough to turn your stomach. 

A good year

4 Jan

Ironic lectern caption for a woman who has just been handed a new stadium for free

2013 was a very good year – for Karren Brady.

In March the business she runs, West Ham United FC, was handed prime tenancy of a £600 million public asset in exchange for a peppercorn rent and some vague promises about community engagement.

At the same time, Newham council confirmed that it will contribute £40 million to the cost of converting the stadium for the Hammers’ use – ensuring that Ms Brady and her multi-millionaire employers will bear the merest fraction of the expense of relocating their business to swanky new premises.

In September she received a standing ovation at the Tory party conference when she made a speech introducing chancellor George Osborne,

And to top it all off in December she was awarded a CBE for her “for services to entrepreneurship and women in business.”

Usually, people who rely on public money to get by are branded ‘scroungers’ by the Tories; but when it’s handed out to business people they get standing ovations and medals for ‘entrepreneurship’.