Ministers urged to build on London 2012 Olympic success
15:22 25 January 2013
Ministers were today encouraged to build on the success of the 2012 Olympics to transform the east of London and build a new city “fit for the future”.
Social entrepreneur and independent crossbencher Lord Mawson called on the Government to grasp a “once in a lifetime opportunity” and back young entrepreneurs and business people.
Opening a Lords debate on the lasting legacy of the London Olympics, he warned against the investment and inspiration provided by the Games becoming the “white elephant” it had in other host countries.
Lord Mawson, a board member of the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC), said: “The time has come to capture the glorious history of east London’s trading past and build a new city fit for the future.
“We are in the moment, the biggest opportunity that we all must now grasp is to change east London forever.”
Acknowledging that at least 25 years of hard work lay ahead, he said the Government needed to get behind local entrepreneurs.
“This once in a lifetime opportunity now demands that all political parties, whether in or out of office, use the time we now have to understand what works on the ground, build on it and back success.”
Paralympic gold medal winner and crossbencher Baroness Grey-Thompson backed Lord Mawson’s call, saying the Olympic Park cannot be “an oasis that isolates or displaces the local community”.
Lady Grey-Thompson, who was appointed to the LLDC’s board last month, said: “In the lead up to the Games much time and thought was given to employment of people from the host boroughs, diversity in procurement, involving people from every background.
“This work isn’t massively high profile but it needs to continue now the Games have moved on.”
Praising the work of the Games makers and London ambassadors, she said: “This is community spirit at its best and what the Big Society should really be.”
Lady Grey-Thompson said the Games were a “magical moment” to be celebrated and “so much more than sport” - adding: “I agree with Lord Mawson that this is the start, not the end.”
Tory former Cabinet minister Lord King of Bridgwater, who played a role in the development of London’s docklands, said there had been a “great battle” to get recognition for east London but it was now well placed to bring enormous economic benefit to the UK.
“It will take many years to take forward but the only way is up,” he told peers.
Lord Mawhinney, another Tory ex-Cabinet minister, warned it would be a mistake to believe that a lasting legacy could only be guaranteed by the spending of public money. It was people who had ideas and aspirations.
“Government and ministers have a role to play but not the role of providing exclusive leadership,” he said. “The role they should play is to bang heads together.”
Incoming director-general of the BBC Lord Hall of Birkenhead, a crossbench peer and chairman of the Cultural Olympiad board, called for continued Government subsidy of the arts.
He said the cultural festival that coincided with the Olympics was only brought about because of public funding.
“The artists and leaders who made it possible, like Stephen Daldry and Danny Boyle and many, many others came originally from the subsidised sector,” he said.
“Indeed, the festival couldn’t have happened without the commitment of the public funded organisations - the museums, theatres, galleries, opera houses, concert halls and so on.
“Their financial strength over a long period gave them the security to create the ambitious commissions we saw in the festival.
“Stable investment in the arts must be sustained if we are to maintain that legacy - and, with every £1 of public subsidy generating £4 of earned income, it also makes sense to do so.”
Lord Hall, who is currently chief executive of the Royal Opera House, also warned against downgrading the study of the arts in schools.
He told peers: “The arts must remain at the heart of the national curriculum to allow all children, regardless of their background, the chance to develop their creative talents and contribute in the future to our world leading creative arts and industries.”
Former BBC director-general Lord Birt, a crossbench peer, pointed to the contrast between the “dizzy heights” and “unity” of the Olympics and Paralympics and the “gloom” of an economic crisis and “decaying national infrastructure”.
He added: “The Olympics and Paralympics showed that if as a nation we can find effective ways to combine and assemble our best talents, if we can set aside our sometimes poisonous and disputatious political culture we truly can as a nation achieve anything we set out to do.”
Television presenter Floella Benjamin, a Liberal Democrat peer, called for more funding for arts projects for children.
Baroness Benjamin said: “It is with a heavy heart that today I say that of the £337 million that Arts Council England will give next year to the 688 organisations that it supports, just over 2% will go to organisations producing work specifically for children.”
She asked: “What legacy is this type of policy going to produce? Children need more and yet we give them less.”
For Labour, Baroness Billingham warned of “misgivings” about the legacy, blaming the Government’s “ill-considered” cuts in council funding for putting it “in doubt”.
Local authority funding was being slashed, she said, and Labour-controlled councils were being “cynically targeted”, putting the future of libraries, theatres and museums under threat.
“All the good work being done will be undermined by unfair funding and the legacy should be felt by everyone in Britain, not just London,” Lady Billingham added.
For the Government Lord Gardiner of Kimble said ministers were committed to delivering the Olympic legacy. An “excellent start” had been made but much work needed to be done.
He said redevelopment of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park will offer “iconic” visitor attractions, alongside new homes, schools and businesses.
The Government was committed to improving sport participation figures, he added, and through Sport England £1 billion would be invested over the next five years in the youth and community sports strategy to encourage all to take up sport.
“The Government will shortly be announcing plans which acknowledge the important role sport plays in our schools.
“Physical education will remain a compulsory part of the curriculum at all key stages of education.”
On the importance of arts and culture in education, Lord Gardiner said the English Baccalaureate had a core set of academic subjects but left around 25% to 30% of time in the curriculum for pupils to take other subjects.
“The importance of creative subjects such as art, drama and music is fully recognised as part of a broad curriculum.”
The Department for Education is considering how to ensure high quality qualifications are available in these subjects, he said.
Lord Gardiner said protecting all arts funding while cutting public spending in other areas was not an option but £2.9 billion would go to the arts over the life of this parliament.
The challenge is to translate the success of the Games into more international business and growth for the UK. “We aim to generate £30 billion of benefit to the UK over the next four years from additional sales, inward investment and attracting extra visitors.”