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London Stadium’s financial status criticised in report

London Stadium is costing Londoners more than £8m (€9m/$10.8m) a year to run, according to a new report from the London Assembly Budget and Performance Committee, which has published its findings of an investigation into the finances of the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC).

London Stadium served as the centrepiece of the 2012 Olympic Games and is now primarily used as the home of Premier League football club West Ham United. The report has warned that the £8m figure could rise by £1.5m a year if the team is relegated to the Championship.

The report found that COVID-19 has added substantially to construction and development costs for the LLDC’s East Bank regeneration scheme. According to a report, costs to the taxpayer have increased by £151m since the start of the pandemic, with the “true cost” of COVID-19 still being modelled.

The report warns that there is now “increasing risk” that the LLDC will be unable to repay all of its anticipated £520m of borrowing, with no planned date when this will change. Additionally, it was found that the Olympic Park has made less of a loss during the pandemic due to the absence of live events.

London Stadium was forced to postpone a number of events last summer due to the pandemic, including Major League Baseball’s London Series, UK Athletics’ Anniversary Games and a joint concert by Green Day, Fall Out Boy and Weezer. The LLDC has confirmed it is on track to deliver in-year savings of £7.4m as requested by the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, with the report stating that over 70% of these savings have come from reduced operating costs from London Stadium.

Susan Hall, chairman of the budget and performance committee, said: “The London Stadium is a financial burden on Londoners, and the LLDC must continue doing what it can to drive down the costs associated with it. In light of COVID-19 and the budget issues facing the Greater London Authority, our committee can see where that money would be better spent.

“Another startling discovery that this investigation uncovered is that despite the significant annual capital spend on the Queen Elizabeth Park, the LLDC has decreased in value by £381m between 2014-15 and 2019-20. This is a ticking time bomb for the next Mayoralty. Londoners should not be expected to keep pumping huge sums of money into a development that is not only dropping in value but doesn’t even begin to help address the capital’s crippling affordable housing issue, despite having the means.

“It seems like everything with the LLDC was set up with good intentions, but somewhere along the way things have been lost. From expensive white elephant football stadiums to low levels of affordable housing, it is hard to understand or justify the continued investment in this project which fails to deliver time and again. The 2012 Olympics are remembered with such pride and joy throughout the UK, it is a shame to see that its legacy is now a burden on Londoners instead of helping to solve some of the biggest issues facing our capital.”

Following the release of the report, an LLDC spokesperson told the BBC that it was disappointed by the “lack of context and errors in the report”.

The spokesperson added: “Regeneration is vital at this time in creating jobs, neighbourhoods and investment. The 2017 World Athletics Championships, hosted at the stadium, alone brought in more than £100m of spend.”

Image: Hammersfan/CC BY-SA 4.0/Edited for size