London mayor Boris Johnson has missed key opportunities to leave an employment legacy after the 2012 Olympics, claimed the BBC in a report today.
With London currently enjoying Olympic euphoria after months of fearful anticipation that it would all go horribly wrong, attention is now turning to what legacies will be left behind once the world's athletes have departed. Two key schemes set up in 2010 and intended to get unemployed people into jobs during and after the Games have been dogged by delays and cuts in funding.
The mayor's initial pledge of £20m was split between two main projects. The 2012 Employment Legacy Project, which cost £4.5m and was intended to employ 1,400 of capital's unemployed during and after the Olympics, and the Host Borough Employment Project, which cost £15m and focused on 5,000 of the long-term unemployed in the six Olympic boroughs. So what's gone wrong, especially after the mayor's pre-election promise to provide jobs?
The BBC identified a delay of over a year in getting the Legacy project started which meant that the majority of employers had already recruited for the Olympics or were in the process of doing so. Last year, £1.5m was put aside for the project, later revised to £570,000, but less than half of that amount was spent. The Host Borough project was also delayed and then 're-profiled' (politico-speak for 'we've missed our targets so we'll reset them lower') as well as suffering an underspend of £1.5m last year. Unemployment remains among the highest in the country for the Olympic boroughs of Waltham Forest, Newham, Tower Hamlets, Greenwich and Hackney.
No story about City Hall or local authority projects would be complete without the ubiquitous contractor. In this case it's Seetec, who are only paid if they get someone into a job. The sting in the tail is that 40% of the fee is only paid if the person remains in the job for 12 months. Early reports from the local authorities involved indicated that keeping someone in a job for 12 months in today's economic climate might be a tad ambitious, so the 12 month target was reduced to six months.
Mysteriously, there's no way of tracking the projects — the BBC reports that 'the Investment and Performance Board meets in private and a number of reports and minutes are missing from the public record of the meetings on the mayor's website.'
Office of National Statistics (ONS) figures last month showed a 61,000 increase in employment in London but concern that this is merely temporary was raised. Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said:
"The Olympic effect may give the impression of a recovery, but it is a mirage. The number of the long-term unemployed is still rising, and huge numbers of women and young people are still struggling to find work."
The now-infamous G4S security debacle failed to recruit enough people and the collapse last week of the London Pleasure Gardens, an Olympic project which provided jobs to some of Newham's young unemployed, haven't done much for confidence in an employment legacy either.
The mayor's election manifesto made much of the 'huge opportunity' provided by the Olympics to boost London's jobs and economy but is he letting it slip through his fingers and become a mirage?
Photo by _JamesDavies in the Londonist Flickr pool.