Inquiry into Olympic stadium investment that lost council £40m is slammed

Chair of the overview and scrutiny commission, Councillor Anthony McAlmont, and Newham mayor Rokhsan

Chair of the overview and scrutiny commission, Councillor Anthony McAlmont, and Newham mayor Rokhsana Fiaz. Mayor Fiaz said the commission's probe of the investment in the London Stadium (pictured) didn't ask all the right people for evidence and was concerned by the 'limited scope' of its recommendations. Picture: Luke Acton/Paul Harding (for PA). - Credit: Luke Acton/Paul Harding (for PA)

A report into the council’s handling of the Olympic stadium investment has been slammed for a lack of depth by councillors and Newham’s mayor Rokhsana Fiaz.

The council agreed to invest £40 million for a 35 per cent share in the project in 2013.

Along with securing a legacy for the area, the goal was to reap a £3 million return every year.

The investment into the venue, which was renamed the London Stadium after the 2012 Olympics, failed to return a penny and instead put the council in a perilous financial position before it decided to pull-out from the project at the end of 2017.

On top of that, few of the 'community days' to use the venue were used by the council because of the costs associated with running the massive building.

The scrutiny commission's report found all this, but some in the chamber saw gaps in the inquiry.

"I think they really missed a trick," Councillor Sarah Ruiz told the Recorder.

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Councillor Ruiz is lead for children and young people's services and was on the commission before she was tapped for her cabinet position in 2018.

"In the end I just said, 'Are we serious about this scrutiny or are we just paying lip-service to it?'"

She alleged officers were unwilling to give them information and described trying to get answers as like 'walking through treacle'.

Newham Council didn't respond to a request for comment on that claim.

"I just think we were asked to do a particular job and we were not given the necessary tools and information to do that job," Cllr Ruiz added.

Mayor Fiaz welcomed all the report's recommendations, which include not delegating big decisions to officers and limiting the use of 'urgency procedures' to bypass scrutiny.

But she asked why members of bodies like the scrutiny and audit committees at the time (which include Fiaz and Ruiz) weren't called in to answer questions.

Chair of the scrutiny commission, Councillor Anthony McAlmont, defended its work and said Ms Ruiz's assessment was 'matter of judgement'.

Mayor Fiaz said this wasn't the end of the council's probing into the London Stadium, but declined to say more.

With multiple reviews in the pipeline, including a new commission on financial control, more information about the fiasco could be revealed in the coming months.

The Recorder tried to contact Newham's previous mayor Robin Wales, who oversaw the London Stadium investment, but he did not respond.