Saturday 24 August 2019

Assembly loses patience with London Stadium's owners and demands to see accounts

West Ham's London Stadium tenancy deal, at just £2.5million a year, has been described as the
West Ham's London Stadium tenancy deal, at just £2.5million a year, has been described as the "deal of the century"

London Assembly members have demanded to see the financial accounts of the company that owns West Ham's London Stadium home amid concerns it is heading towards insolvency.

The centrepiece of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games is owned by E20 Stadium LLP, a joint venture between the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) and Newham Council.

Despite having West Ham as an anchor tenant, the £752million stadium has been dogged by financial concerns as the price tag for converting it from an athletics venue to a football ground, and vice-versa, has repeatedly surpassed estimates.

This has led the assembly's budget and performance committee to take the rare step of issuing a summons notice for E20's 2016/17 accounts.

In a statement, the committee's chairman Gareth Bacon said: "This company spends vast amounts of public money and we know it is in financial difficulty.

"But we have been prevented from seeing the accounts of E20 Stadium LLP. Why?

"The assembly needs this information immediately so we can assess whether (London Mayor Sadiq Khan) is making the right decisions when it comes to the London Stadium and Olympic legacy.

"The assembly needs to do its job of scrutinising the issues that matter to London, unhindered."

Khan announced a review into the Stratford venue last November and is scheduled to receive a much-delayed report on the matter from accountancy firm Moore Stephens by the end of this month. It is hoped that this report will be published before the end of the year.

However, assembly members, whose job it is to hold the mayor to account, are clearly losing patience and E20 now has two weeks to hand over its most recent set of annual accounts.

Earlier this month during a two-hour session at the assembly, the outgoing chief executive and new chairman of LLDC were asked to explain how the stadium's conversion bill rose by £51million in 2016 alone and what they planned to do about it.

Answers were thin on the ground, though, beyond confirming what is now widely known about the real cost of moving the stadium's temporary seating into and out of position so it can be used for athletics, concerts, football and other events.

It is understood, for example, that it cost £8million to transform West Ham's new home into the venue for this summer's World Athletics Championships and back again, instead of the original estimate of £300,000.

These revelations have led some to ask if West Ham's tenancy deal, which at just £2.5million a year has been described as the "deal of the century", should be revisited.

And there have also been reports that E20 could be placed in administration to allow the whole operation to be restructured.

An LLDC spokesperson said: "LLDC and Newham Council are working closely with E20, the London Stadium's owners, to address the long-standing financial challenges in the best interests of the residents of Newham and Londoners.

"A decision about the future of E20 and the stadium will be made by the Mayor alongside the publication of the Moore Stephens review."

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