Public letter dated 25th March from Lord Bates, Government Whips’ Office, House of Lords to Lord Harris of Haringey on the questions raised during last week’s Olympic and Paralympic Legacy debate.
25th March 2014
I would like to reiterate my thanks for securing the debate about Olympic and Paralympic legacy on 19th March 2014, and for the insightful and constructive comments made by you and our fellow peers that evening. I am writing to respond to the points raised during the debate that I was unable to cover in my remarks on the evening itself. I have arranged these responses by theme.
Access to Facilities
Lord Faulkner of Worcester spoke about access to sporting stadia for disabled people and asked whether Government is serious about making progress in this area, in football in particular. I would like to reassure the noble Lord that this is indeed the case. Government believes that disabled spectators should be able to enjoy all sports events. Collaborative partnership to improve accessibility remains preferable to imposing further prescriptive licencing requirements, but the Minister for Sport will be meeting with representatives of Level Playing Field to discuss this in the very near future, and as stated in the government response, officials will work with relevant organisations to give this issue due consideration. Lord Wigley asked if I would set a timeframe for progress in respect to legislation in this area, but I hope it is clear that it would not be appropriate for me to speculate at this stage when full consideration still needs to be given to other options for improving accessibility.
Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
Lord Faulkner also asked about the Olympic Stadium and what would happen in the event of West Ham United owners selling the football club at a profit which reflected the benefit of being resident at the Olympic Stadium. The agreement with West Ham United Football Club contains arrangements that specifically deal with a potential sale of the club to ensure that the owners of the Stadium receive a fair share of the club’s value increase. This arrangement protects the taxpayers’ investment in the Stadium’s transformation.
Lord Best spoke about employment and apprenticeships for local residents in East London, and there is indeed good focus in this area. The Legacy Corporation already works very closely with local job brokerages and Job Centre Plus to ensure local residents are aware of job opportunities on the Park. It also provides funding to local authorities for brokerage support and for their residents to develop the skills and experience to take advantage of local job opportunities. As an example of good practice, the proportion of local people in the workforce of BAM Nuttall, a contractor in the transition phase of the Park, has consistently exceeded 40% on site and they had the highest number of apprentices on a single site in London in 2013, 95% of whom were local. This model has been replicated for other contractors on site.
In response to Baroness Wheatcroft’s remarks about companies excluded from the Supplier Recognition Scheme, there is no scope to change the categories of excluded companies, which relate to contracts between the IOC and major international companies. However the BOA can and does discuss individual cases with the International Olympic Committee where companies have raised doubts about their exclusion from the scheme. This has, in certain circumstances, resulted in the companies concerned receiving a licence.
Lord Mawson spoke of the importance of ensuring cohesion amongst the newly established communities on the Park, and this is indeed being given careful consideration by the Legacy Corporation. They will work closely with the developer and affordable housing provider on each of the new neighbourhoods to be built on the Park to help support the emerging communities. Community facilities will be provided on each development and the Legacy Corporation is also in discussion with venue operators on the Park to develop a Park membership scheme offering discounts to Park residents. The activity will complement the additional work to encourage sustainable living such as building cycle paths and creating car free areas. This will build on the impact for these communities of the thousands of jobs created on the Park.
You yourself asked whether housing on Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park would not only be affordable, but suitable, taking into consideration the sizes of family groups that may wish to live in the area. The Legacy Corporation has indeed taken this into account. Seventy per cent of family homes will have three or more bedrooms. Most will be three-bed but there will be provision for larger families. The aim is to create mixed communities in each of the five new neighbourhoods.
Grassroots sport and National Governing Bodies
Lady Grey- Thompson asked how many disabled people are employed by National Governing Bodies. Sport England has been asked to compile this information, and I will ensure it is passed on to her when available.
You asked whether National Governing Bodies’ Whole Sport Plans could be made public. This is a matter for Sport England and how they manage relationships with governing bodies, not for the Government to dictate. But Sport England does publish a business plan plus huge amounts of data on sports participation through the Active People Survey.
Baroness Billingham talked about tennis and its past funding arrangements. Sport England now uses a ‘payment for results’ approach to ensure that public money is used effectively. If a sport does not meet strict criteria, the National Governing Body can have funding withdrawn.
Lord Holmes asked whether it would be possible for all sports funded by Sport England to have targets for disability sport (currently 42 out of the 46 sports have targets). Sport England takes this very seriously and it will no doubt form an important part of their regular discussions with those four governing bodies.
Funding for elite sport
A number of my fellow peers raised the issue of UK Sport’s ‘No Compromise’ approach to funding elite athletes. UK Sport publishes a clear set of investment principles which are subject to review in each Olympic and Paralympic cycle. They are understood and accepted as an objective and effective approach to managing an investment with high level goals and through approximately 50 sports and partner organisations. Previous streamlining of investment in sport such as hockey and gymnastics has encouraged them to refocus and prioritise more effectively- gymnastics funding was reduced in 2004 but secured one medal in Beijing, then winning four at London 2012. The door is not shut permanently to any sport but public investment has to be focussed on delivering results. As was mentioned in the debate, the ‘No Compromise’ approach has taken the Great British Olympic team from 36th in the medal table in Atlanta 1996 to 3rd in London. It has also led to Sochi 2014 being the most successful Winter Olympic Games for Great Britain since 1924, including two team medals in curling, and the best Winter Paralympic Games performance since Innsbruck 1984 with six medals for Great Britain, including the first ever gold.
National economic and business benefits
Lord Wigley asked about the net economic benefit from the Games. I would refer the noble Lord to the independent meta-evaluation, conducted by a consortium led by Grant Thornton, which estimated the gross value added at between £28bn-£41bn up to 2020.
Lord Stevenson asked what Government is doing to invest in PE and school sport. This government has already committed to increase the provision of PE and sport in primary schools with over £150 million a year for primary school sport for two academic years from September 2013 and as announced in the Autumn Statement on 5th December 2013, the funding will be extended for a further year to 2015/16; this is a substantial investment. Many schools are using the funds to invest in professional development of teachers and supplementing this through engaging high quality local coaches to work alongside and support existing staff. Sport England is also investing over £400m into 46 National Governing Bodies (NGBs) of sport to deliver their Whole Sport Plans. As part of this investment, NGBs are required establish more links between school sport and community sport. Governments investment in improving provision in schools through the primary sport premium is supplemented by the National College for Teaching and Leadership, who have already developed a new specialist PE primary course for trainee teachers, which is currently being offered to 120 trainees across three pilot schools.
Lady Grey Thompson asked how schools are being helped to make the most effective use of the primary school funding for PE and school sport. We are working across government with external partners to support schools to spend the money effectively and sustainably. Case studies of best practice are available on gov.uk and external partners are offering expert advice to schools on how to ensure the greatest improvement in PE and sport provision, as well as where to seek further support at a local level.
The Department of Education will continue to review and amend this material to ensure that the most appropriate support and advice is available to headteachers. Ministers wrote to headteachers of every state-funded primary school last year to remind them of the forthcoming funding and to draw their attention to the material that had been placed on the website. The Department also used a social media campaign to widen headteachers’ awareness of the material.
Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector has strengthened schools inspection arrangements following the introduction of the new primary funding, requiring Ofsted inspectors to look at schools’ use of the funding alongside other issues of school leadership of PE and sport. Ofsted’s briefing for inspectors specially emphasises the importance of investment in the professional development of teachers and extra-curricular activities. Schools are also being held accountable for how they spend their funding through a new requirement to report their spending plans online to parents by April 2014.
Lord Wigley asked about the cultural legacy outside of England- there has indeed been such a legacy. The Cultural Olympiad held hugely successful events across the entirety of the United Kingdom. As with many areas of legacy, culture is a devolved issue. Securing a cultural legacy in the nations is the responsibility of the Devolved Administrations and their arm’s length bodies.
I would like to close by again thanking you and our fellow peers for their comments last week. The government welcomes the scrutiny provided by your committee’s thoughtful and meticulous report and the excellent standard of the debate last week.
I am copying this letter to all members of the committee and all those who spoke in last week’s debate.