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Olympic Legacy (East London)

Volume 570: debated on Friday 8 November 2013

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—(Mr Gyimah.)

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship for the first time, Madam Deputy Speaker.

I am glad to have the opportunity to come to this House and talk about the Olympic legacy in London. I will talk in particular about the Olympic legacy that was promised and what has actually happened, with particular reference to east London.

From the time when it was announced that London had got the 2012 Olympics, I made a point of talking to and chasing up Ministers and stakeholders on the question of jobs and employment in the east end. I met the then Mayor on a number of occasions to discuss that subject. I met the London Development Agency. I met the then Olympics Minister, my right hon. Friend the Member for Dulwich and West Norwood (Dame Tessa Jowell).

I concede to no one in my pleasure and excitement at the summer of 2012. For those of us who are born and bred Londoners, the summer of 2012 was one of the most magical summers in London. As a Member of Parliament for one of the east end boroughs, I was privileged to tour the Olympic park, which was a wonderful piece of landscaping. It was a complete regeneration of what had been a very sad part of Stratford. I was even fortunate enough to have a ticket for the 100 metres final. I will refrain from confessing to the House who I shouted for, but I certainly saw the sporting excellence that was on display.

For me, one of the most magical aspects of the Olympics in 2012 was the Olympic volunteers. They were a group of people, young and old, who really looked like London and who brought their enthusiasm and pleasure to the process. Many people who were fortunate enough to visit the Olympic park remember those volunteers above all else.

Even though 2012 was a golden summer, I have not forgotten the promises that were made in the run-up to the Olympics. I remind the House that the five Olympic host boroughs—Greenwich, Tower Hamlets, Newham, Waltham Forest and Hackney—are among the poorest areas in the country. All five host boroughs are in the 15% most deprived areas in the country and Hackney is in the bottom 5%. Only 55% of people of working age in Hackney are in employment, despite the fact that the population is comparatively young. Few places in the country are in greater need of regeneration and a long-term economic boost. I truly believed that the 2012 Olympics were the perfect departure point for that boost and that regeneration. Although I know that the Olympic legacy process is still in train, it seems to me appropriate, fully 12 months after the Olympics ended, to return to the important issues of jobs, employment and regeneration.

From the time when work began on the Olympic park, I voiced my concerns about the low number of local people who were working on the site. Figures released by the Olympic Delivery Authority in October 2010 revealed that of the 6,423 workers on the Olympic park, just 130 came from Hackney—the lowest figure among the five boroughs—and that only seven of the apprentices on the site lived in Hackney. There have been great outcomes of the Olympics, but unless we are watchful, we will fall far short of expectations on some of the promises for the Olympic legacy.

The promise to London, particularly east London, was that the Olympics would be transforming. We were told that a well planned, well managed environment would be created, which would attract business investment and promote recreational and cultural use in years to come; that communities would be transformed, with 9,000 new homes being built, a large proportion of which would be affordable; and that new sport, leisure, education and health facilities would be provided to meet the needs of residents, businesses and élite sport. Above all, we were told that the Olympics would transform prospects, help 20,000 workless Londoners from the five host boroughs into permanent employment by 2012 and create 12,000 job opportunities in the area of the park post-games.

In the case of transport, an improved and expanded London underground is certainly one of the successes of the games. The London Overground has also benefited, and Stratford must be one of the best-connected sporting venues in the world. I will return to the matter of transport in the months to come, but I wish to say now that prices on London transport remain too high, and that Londoners cannot understand why an underground system that was able to run almost flawlessly during the Olympic games does not seem to be able to do so on a day-to-day basis.

Although we all thrilled at the élite sportspeople— Mo Farah and the rest—the sports legacy of the Olympics is not as good as we would like. Over the past year, there has been a decline in the number of children across all age groups involved in sport. A survey of 2,000 children carried out earlier this year found that a quarter of girls between five and 10 said that they had not taken part in any sport over the past month, up from 17% five years ago. One in seven boys said that they had not. Even walking appears to have declined in popularity. That can come as no surprise given the Government’s school sport reforms, including the abolition of the school sport partnerships scheme. We know that work is being done—in particular, I draw the House’s attention to the Hard Rock Café east London rugby league project—but it is concerning that in a difficult and constrained time of austerity, ordinary people’s level of sporting participation seems to be going down.

It is brilliant that my hon. Friend has secured the debate. Does she accept that a substantial amount of money has been put into small facilities, particularly in her borough of Hackney? The mobile swimming pool has brought a lot of new people into swimming. Does she also agree that it is important to have a genuine partnership among all the London local authorities, city hall and the Mayor? There is ring-fenced money now, in small amounts but enough to be a catalyst. It is important that people work together; otherwise, in 10 years’ time we will look back and say that there has not been a legacy.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. Small amounts of money have been provided, and there are some excellent specific projects, such as the rugby league one to which I referred. The problem is that the overall number of young people participating in sport is drifting downwards. She is right that there has to be a big push to make the money that is available a catalyst for levels of sporting activity to remain constant and then rise. Of course, sporting activity is not just for fun. As someone who has taken an interest in public health in recent times, I know that activity is important for our young people’s health and well-being.

Housing is the area in which we have been disappointed, given the expectations that we had. Assurances were given that thousands of homes would be allocated for social housing. Of the 11,000 homes scheduled to be built over the next 15 to 20 years, the promise was that 35% would be affordable and social housing. However, with the Government’s changed policy on social housing, their refusal to cap rents and their austerity-based economics, it seems that many local people will not be able to afford that so-called affordable housing. Of the 2,818 homes in the Olympic legacy programme, Newham will receive 350 and Tower Hamlets just 27. Just 100 homes will be divided between Barking and Dagenham, Havering, Redbridge, Waltham Forest and Hackney—an average of 13 homes per borough. What kind of housing legacy is that?

As to the notion of affordable, in the context of the Government’s social housing policy, which means that subsidised properties can be rented at up to 80% of market rates, those homes will be affordable only for people earning £30,000 or more, which is above the average wage in the east end of London. Shelter calculates that the median monthly rent for a two-bedroom house in Newham is £953. That means that a two-bedroom property in the new development could be classified as affordable if advertised to let at £762—beyond the reach of many of the people I represent.

As we know, the Olympic village was sold to the Qatari ruling family’s property company, and the UK property developer Delancey Estates. That deal left the UK taxpayer £275 million out of pocket, and also means that there will be economic and commercial pressure to increase the buy-to-let proportion of those properties. I believe the sum effect will be to drive those properties out of the reach of ordinary Londoners.

I touched on employment at the start of my remarks, as I take a particular interest in that. At the beginning there was a commitment to ensure that 20,000 Olympics jobs went to residents of the games’ host boroughs, but in the end, only 9,700 did—fewer than half. That was a poor start, and things have not necessarily got any better. Given that the 5 Borough Employment and Skills project and the 2012 Employment Legacy programme started after the Olympics, once the big bulge of job opportunities had gone, it is no surprise that both projects have apparently underspent. Given that unemployment remains a serious issue in the east end, we should question how those projects can realistically support sustained employment when they struggled to find local people in the first place.

The Olympics were certainly important for industries such as construction, but when I asked about the number of local people employed on the site in the first place, we found that in 2010, only 20% of workers on the Olympic site were from one of the five host boroughs. It is not evident that local construction companies benefited from the various contracts.

A number of local ventures surrounding the Olympics—notably Westfield shopping centre in Stratford—were meant to benefit locals directly. At that shopping centre, however, of 10,500 permanent jobs created by Westfield, just 2,000 are filled by local people. Those jobs do not require some fantastically high level of qualification and skill; they are jobs in the retail and service industries, yet only 2,000—less than 20%—are filled by local people. Of course the summer of 2012 was magical, and we have seen improvements in transport infrastructure. However, when we consider the billions of pounds invested in the Olympics, and the numbers of people uprooted, we have yet to see what was promised to Londoners.

We know that regeneration will take place over the next 15 to 20 years. The issues are evident now, and it is not too late to make the necessary changes to meet as many of the original commitments of the Olympic legacy as possible. For instance, although the current organisations managing the Olympic legacy have set employment targets, they refuse to set minimum employment targets. If we are to meet our promise to the people of London, and particularly the Olympic boroughs, we must think about setting minimum targets.

Wonderful though some of 2012 was, in my view it was disappointing that so few local people got jobs—as opposed to volunteer opportunities—at the Olympic park. It was disappointing that so few local businesses got business opportunities, and I call on the Minister and the House to ensure that the promises of the Olympic games—increased levels of sporting activity among ordinary people, particularly children, and employment, business, cultural and sporting regeneration—are kept. The people involved in managing the Olympic legacy should not believe that London MPs, particularly MPs for the Olympic boroughs, are not watching what they are doing. The process will take 10 to 15 years. We will watch them every step of the way.

It is a pleasure to serve under you for the first time, Madam Deputy Speaker. It is also a pleasure to stand here united with my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott), my fellow Hackney MP, to endorse what she said.

I wanted to add a couple of perspectives from my constituency to the point that my hon. Friend made very effectively about jobs. As she said, there are good news stories from the Olympics. Regardless of anything else, 800 new homes are a good thing, but she is right that the Government’s policy is putting that at risk. The homes need to be affordable for local people, and we also need to watch that they are not sold to overseas landlords. We need to ensure that they are owned within the community, or certainly in the UK, even if they are let.

My constituency has a really great legacy in the Copper Box, a multi-sport facility that will host the London basketball team. Events are already happening, so that is a direct legacy. It is run by Better, the organisation that runs the borough sports facilities, so it is accessible to local people. iCITY has brought in BT Sport as the first anchor tenant in the media centre, and it is giving Sky Sports a run for its money. I met BT Sport only this week to push it on the jobs front, and I am watching that closely.

There are some excellent small businesses. Hackney Pearl, a fantastic restaurant and café in my constituency, was an early believer in the Olympics. It has struggled because infrastructure changes have not happened as quickly as they should after the Olympics to give it the boost it needs, but it is an example of the interest of local businesses in the potential legacy that my hon. Friend highlighted.

In the seconds I have remaining, I want to make a point about jobs. The borough is working closely with local companies to ring-fence jobs locally for Hackney residents, including in the construction of any new facilities. The Ways into Work programme is an important step that provides one-to-one support for local people. The support is holistic, involving everything from interview skills upwards.

However, the key thing that my hon. Friend highlighted, which I reiterate to the Minister, is that we and others are watching what is happening. We need an audit of employers who have promised to recruit and employ local people, because without that, they will not do so. There were scams in Olympic employment. It took me a while to uncover them, and by that time it was too late to do anything about them. For example, people pretended to be local.

One scam was that people who had moved very recently to Hackney were counted as Hackney residents.

If I had time, I could detail more scams, but there certainly were scams. I know that this is not the Minister’s remit, but it is vital that he takes the point back to his colleagues. There needs to be an audit of where people came from. I will happily give him more details, but I am anxious, as my hon. Friend is, to hear the Government’s official response.

My hon. Friend and I agree that there have been some great benefits from the Olympics, but jobs and skills are the real prize. It is the legacy that we are both watching like hawks.

This is the first time I have served under your speakership, Madam Deputy Speaker. We are all novices, but you are doing a fantastic job.

I am delighted to respond to the debate introduced by the hon. Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott), and I thank the hon. Member for Hackney South and Shoreditch (Meg Hillier) for her contribution, and the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Kate Hoey), who made an intervention.

I am delighted that the House has the opportunity to debate the Olympic legacy. I echo the words of the hon. Ladies that there is a lot of good news, but it is incredibly important that we keep a close eye on progress. I recognise where the project is going well, but we should always ask, “Can we do better?” I want to suggest constructive ways in which we might do so, and I take the speeches made in that spirit.

If I may, I shall talk a bit about the wider legacy in east London, and in particular about what has happened to some of the venues. I echo what the hon. Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington said: I, too, thoroughly enjoyed the Olympics and Paralympics. I am not sure that we will ever grow tired of saying that they were possibly the best Olympics and Paralympics the world has ever seen, and the nation as a whole was immensely proud.

It is also worth emphasising that this was a cross-party triumph. The right hon. Member for Dulwich and West Norwood (Dame Tessa Jowell) persuaded the then Government to bid for the Olympics. They were won by the previous Government and executed by this Government, and two different Mayors were also involved. The hon. Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington also spoke about transport, the sporting legacy, housing, and employment and jobs, all of which are very relevant.

Since last autumn, the Government and the Mayor of London have been working together to ensure that we deliver a single and joined-up legacy from the games. Our priority is to ensure that, as well as investing in infrastructure, we secure an economic and social legacy for people living in east London. We want to provide access to education, training and jobs, as well as greater opportunities to take part in sport, physical activity and, of course, volunteering, which was a huge aspect of the games that people perhaps had not expected. We are determined to ensure that the levels of community engagement and civic pride experienced during the summer of 2012 can be sustained.

As I am sure hon. Members know, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport is the lead Minister responsible for the overall co-ordination and delivery of the legacy. She is deputy chair of the Olympic and Paralympic Legacy Cabinet Committee, which is chaired by the Prime Minister. Its meetings are also attended by Lord Coe, in his role as the Prime Minister’s legacy ambassador, and the Mayor of London, who has lead responsibility for east London regeneration.

In April 2012, responsibility for legacy in east London was devolved from the Department for Communities and Local Government to the Mayor. The London Legacy Development Corporation was established as the first ever mayoral development corporation and, in September 2012, the Mayor became chairman of the legacy corporation. There are therefore well-established governance structures in place to provide a robust framework for effective legacy implementation in east London.

As a demonstration of progress towards a lasting legacy, I want to give the House an update. We have secured the future of all eight venues on the Olympic park—the stadium, the Copper Box, the aquatics centre, the press and broadcast centre, the ArcelorMittal Orbit, the east village, the Lee Valley hockey and tennis centre and the Lee Valley velo park. That is a significant achievement. I shall not single out any previous Olympics, but I cannot think of many other Olympic host cities that have achieved such a turnaround in such a short space of time.

To give credit where it is due, one of the key aspects of the Olympics was that legacy was at the forefront of people’s thinking from the moment the games were won. Operators are now in place to oversee the transition and management of all the park venues in legacy, and this is the first time that has been achieved by a host city within one year of the games.

The Queen Elizabeth Olympic park started to re-open in summer 2013 with major events at the Copper Box. The Copper Box is now open to the general public, including the east London community, with individual gym sessions available from £3. The re-opening of the park venues will continue in spring 2014 with the velo park and hockey and tennis centres, operated by the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority, and with the aquatics centre and the ArcelorMittal Orbit.

We have also secured major events that should provide employment opportunities, such as the rugby world cup in 2015, the European hockey and swimming championships in 2016 and the world athletics championships in 2017, and iCITY has been confirmed as occupiers of the press and broadcast centre, with tenants including BT Sport, Loughborough university and Infinity.

As the hon. Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington mentioned, housing and infrastructure is coming on stream fast. We are going to build up to 11,000 homes in and around the five neighbourhoods and the park, including 3,000 new homes in the east village, which we hope will form the bedrock of a fantastic new and vibrant community in east London. It will be a huge part of the legacy of London 2012. In fact, the first residents are expected to move into their new homes in the east village later this month. Furthermore, the ODA has converted almost 3,000 of the athletes’ homes to create a new neighbourhood for London, including almost 1,500 affordable apartments and almost 1,500 apartments at market rents, as well as a new school, a health centre, parklands and roads. I therefore think we are making significant progress on housing.

The hon. Lady rightly talked about jobs. Plans for the park will create capacity for 10,000 new jobs, of which 4,500 will be at iCITY in the press and broadcast centre. iCITY has told us that it wants to recruit new staff from the local community. I understand that it is working closely with Hackney community college to support local people into new jobs as they become available. Furthermore, the park transformation programme has created 2,500 construction jobs in east London. I heard what she said about Westfield and whether people from her local community were getting the jobs, but nevertheless that development has created 10,000 new jobs, with the capacity for another 25,000 in the international quarter on the park.

On Hackney community college, the hon. Member for Hackney South and Shoreditch mentioned the Ways into Work programme, which is working at the heart of Hackney. The London Legacy Development Corporation is also working closely with borough partners to ensure that training and job brokerage programmes help local people into work. The corporation has exceeded its target of recruiting 25% of the work force from the local area, and the proportion for construction jobs is now more than one third.

As a result of the games, investor interest in east London is huge, and the Government are working with the Mayor and London Legacy Development Corporation to secure private investment for the park. We are determined to ensure that the people of east London benefit from new events, visitor attractions and the new international profile of the area. In addition, the Government continue to invest nationally in a range of priority areas, committing more than £1 billion of funding over four years to youth and community sport, and ring-fencing £150 million of funding each year for school sports over the next two years. Join In has been established as the charity to support games makers and others inspired by the games to continue volunteering in their local communities. In addition, more than £9 billion of international trade and investment was won on the back of the games, and tourist numbers to the UK have increased, with visitors now spending more than £19 billion a year.

We can safely say that we are making excellent progress with the legacy overall. As I said, we have managed to transfer all the venues and find new uses for them. Jobs have been created on a significant scale and new housing is now coming on stream. The Government continue to work closely with the Mayor and the London Legacy Development Corporation to deliver a sustainable legacy that will benefit the communities of east London, and we are committed to securing the future of the park as a national asset.

I will take away the points made by hon. Members. In particular, I will ask the Sports Minister to consider the auditing of employers, although London is obviously a place where people move around quite frequently, so sometimes it will be difficult to establish these things, and clearly employers will be employing people who are new to the borough. The hon. Member for Hackney South and Shoreditch used the very strong word “scam”, and I will certain ask the Minister to respond to that. If the hon. Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington wants to set forth a proposal for minimum targets, I am sure that we could look at that, too.

Finally, on behalf of the Government, I can say that we welcome the scrutiny of hon. Members. They are the ones who so effectively represent their constituents in their constituencies and boroughs, and they are the ones on the ground who can keep the Government informed if they think the legacy programme is not working as effectively as it should.

Question put and agreed to.

House adjourned.