New information in response to a parliamentary question has revealed that, five years on from the 2012 Olympics, the government has raised just a fraction of the total amount it owes to charities and community groups.
The story so far…
In 2007 the government diverted £425 million from the Big Lottery Fund to help finance the ballooning costs of the Olympics, including construction of venues on the Olympic Park. Following outrage from charities and many MPs, the then Labour government pledged to repay the debt after the Olympics from the sale of Olympics assets – a pledge subsequently reaffirmed by successive coalition and Conservative governments.
The Directory of Social Change (DSC) leads the Big Lottery Refund campaign, supported by almost 4000 charities, which calls for an immediate return of the lottery cash.
These Olympic assets are now owned by the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC), which is responsible for the redevelopment of the park and sales of assets. So far, we knew that little has been sold off to reimburse the Lottery. But exactly how little is a shocking recent revelation.
New information revealed by parliamentary question
In a written parliamentary question, Steve Reed MP, Shadow Minister for Sport and Civil Society, asked what proportion of the assets at the Olympic Park have been sold so far and what revenue those sales have yielded.
The response from Tracey Crouch, Minister for Sport and Civil Society, revealed that the LLDC to date has entered development agreements for three housing neighbourhoods and received £38 million in deposits and land receipts. We also learned that in 2011 the LLDC’s predecessor sold land nearby for £19.5m. Altogether, this has generated a total revenue of £57.5 million since the Games.
Government has mentioned in the past that the process of paying back the Lottery will start in the ‘mid-2020s’and will be ‘potentially’ be completed by 2030/31. But at the current rate it would take another 30+ years to get to the full amount of £425 million owed to the Big Lottery Fund!
Why we need the money back now
A Big Lottery Refund could fund tens of thousands of charities serving communities throughout the UK. From children’s hospices in Scotland, to foodbanks in Wales or activities for isolated older people in the North East. In the meantime, Big Lottery Fund income is already down by £60m compared to last year. This means less funding will be available to communities in the near future.
Progress on the asset sales and development is riddled with uncertainty. But a simple solution could ensure the Lottery is paid back much sooner. Government should pay back the Big Lottery Fund immediately, and take on the role of creditor for repayment from assets sales from the LLDC.