Tag Archives: West Ham United

Generous to a fault

24 Feb

89651226 sirrobinwales

By Alan Combe

If he fails to win the nomination this year, Sir Robin will miss the hospitality almost as much as wearing the mayoral collar.

One of the perks of being the Mayor of a borough which is “open for business” as he might say – and probably has – is the manner in which the corporate world queues up to offer you hospitality. And gifts. And opportunities to travel, business class sometimes, to exotic far flung places – and West Ham United FC.

In his 16 years as Mayor, Sir Robin has benefitted from a significant number of invitations from companies keen to do business here. In the last four years alone, Sir Robin has been invited to China, Australia, Germany and France.

He has dined in some of London’s finest restaurants including the Terrace Room at the Royal Horseguards Hotel, Cabotte, the Arts Club, the Cinnamon Club, the Mansion House, Simpsons in the Strand. And at West Ham United FC (which may or may not count as fine dining).

In the last four years Sir Robin has enjoyed hospitality at West Ham Utd on 20 occasions, usually as a guest of the club but, on occasion, London City Airport picked up the bill.

His published list of gifts & hospitality starts in 2006 and his close relationship with West Ham Utd is clear from almost the first entry, which records that he received tickets to that year’s F.A. Cup final (Liverpool vs West Ham), which was held in Cardiff. It was rumoured that the club actually flew him to the match.

In March each year, the town of Cannes in southern France plays host to the international property event known as MIPIM. The Independent newspaper recently described this as the place “where estate agency professionals and wealthy investors cavort around five-star hotels and champagne receptions in the sunshine, while ruminating about the housing crisis many of them benefit from directly”. Sir Robin often attends.

Newham Council Taxpayers do not actually pay for this jaunt. It is funded by “sponsors”. These are not usually identified on the list of Gifts and Hospitality. Perhaps they should be because that have included over the years, London City Airport, Westfield, and a number of housebuilders who all have an interest in growing their businesses in Newham.

Sir Robin has visited China, at other people’s expense, on a number of occasions starting in 2007. He went back in 2008 for the Beijing Olympics and his more recent trips have been funded by ABP London the company developing a new business district on a 35-acre site in the Royal Albert Dock.

I was puzzled that according to his gift declarations, Sir Robin didn’t attend the opening of the Rio Olympics in 2016, but it turned out that he was busy visiting Hong Kong and Perth & Sydney in Australia at the time. The Sydney leg of the trip appears to have been funded by a group of businesses called the “Committee for Sydney”.

Of course, it’s not all travel and dinners. Sir Robin has been invited to, amongst other events, Rugby World Cup matches, the IAAF World Athletics Championships, the Henley Regatta, the UCI Track Cycling World Championships, the Wireless Festival and a concert by Adele.

Over the last four years the most “generous” donors would appear to have been ABP London, who have picked up the bills for trips to China and a number of dinners in London; West Ham Utd, who have since moved into the expensively re-purposed London Stadium as the anchor tenant; London City Airport, whose expansion plans were supported by Newham even when the previous London Mayor, Boris Johnson, tried to put a halt to them; and the mystery “sponsors” who have picked up the bills for Mayor Wales (& Cllr Ken Clark) when they visited Cannes for the international property events.

I struggle to understand what benefit these donors could possibly have enjoyed as a result of this generosity!

If you want to check out the details for yourself, Newham’s website helpfully lists all the gifts and hospitality enjoyed by Mayor Wales and all his Councillor colleagues, dating back to 2006. The list however does not give us the cost of each gift or meal or trip, it merely tells us if the cost exceeded £25.00. It should also be stressed that the obligation to report the receipt of gifts and hospitality rests with the Mayor personally.

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An Olympic-sized black hole

17 Oct

The London Stadium

Tomorrow (Wednesday 18 October) the Budget Monitoring Sub-Committee of the London Assembly will question the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) and GLA representatives on the long-term financial sustainability of the London Stadium.

They will ask if it Is fundamentally un-profitable and try to find out what has happened to Sadiq Khan’s investigation into the Stadium.

The discussion will include the Stadium itself, the cultural and education district, affordable housing and overall financial sustainability.

The meeting starts at 2.30pm in The Chamber at City Hall (The Queen’s Walk, London SE1) and is open to the public and media. It will also be streamed live via webcast and YouTube.

Papers for the meeting are available online.

Less than zero

9 Oct

Not paying a penny

West Ham United has yet to hand over a penny in business rates for its London Stadium home, according to a report in London freesheet City AM.

Some 16 months after settling into what was called Olympic Stadium, the body responsible for setting UK business rates is yet to decide whether the Premier League club must pay anything, the Press Association first reported.

Earlier this year it was revealed that West Ham only had to pay rates on retail and office space it lets, rather than the entire stadium. This left landlord E20 Stadium to foot the remainder of annual £2.3m business rate bill. (emphasis added)

West Ham’s annual rent for the stadium is £2.5 million a year (halved if the club is relegated from the Premier League).

Newham loaned £40 million to the stadium partnership to help meet the cost of turning it into a football ground. The hope was that future profits would repay the loan and more. That loan has since been ‘impaired’ and the council’s finance director estimates its current value as zero. It will almost certainly never be repaid.

Adding insult to injury, a multi-millionaire owned football club, playing in the world’s richest league, is having its business rates paid by taxpayers too.

UPDATE

One of the supposed benefits of Newham ‘investing’ in the stadium was the prospect of jobs for local residents. ‘Up to 75%’ of new jobs created would go to local people, they mayor claimed.

A recent FOI response shows what a dismal failure this has been (percentages added):

The total number of jobs created at the stadium currently is 1,531 jobs. 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%).

15 full-time jobs and 469 casual jobs. For £40 million.

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?

Poodle

2 Jun

2014 06 02 08 45 00

I got back from holiday last night to find this waiting on my doormat. I gather a number of my neighbours have also received copies.

I’ve no idea who’s behind this, or the similar one that appeared just before the election, but they have quite an imagination!

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’.