LONDON: Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, has ordered an investigation into the escalating price of converting the London 2012 Olympic Stadium into a football stadium for Premier League West Ham United.
Hammers’ move into the stadium this season has been dogged by crowd problems on top of the ongoing controversy about the bill for the 60,000-capacity venue.
A spokesman for Khan said: “The mayor is deeply concerned about the finances of the Olympic Stadium, which have clearly been left in a total and utter mess by the previous administration at City Hall.
“The former mayor [Boris Johnson, now the Foreign Secretary] announced just last year that the total cost for transforming the stadium was £272m. In reality, this is £323m, a difference of more than £50m.”
West Ham, which has yet to comment, has a 99-year lease on the venue and pays an annual rent of £2.5million, which covers almost all of the running costs.
The club also contributed £15m towards the conversion costs but the public purse covers the rest.
John O’Connell, the chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, told PA: “For too long the details of this shabby deal were kept in secret and lacked proper scrutiny, so Sadiq Khan is absolutely right to look again at the case.
“Instead of focusing our anger on West Ham for taking advantage of this ludicrously generous taxpayer-funded subsidy, we should instead be demanding explanations from those who signed off on this agreement and ask how they ever thought that this offered value to those of us footing the bill.
“It’s now down the those in charge of the inquiry to get to the bottom of how West Ham were gifted the deal of the century while ensuring their investigation doesn’t end up costing the taxpayer as much as the stadium.”
The main operational problem with the stadium now concerns the fixed ‘retractable seats’.
The Greater London Authority, which owns the venue, was led to believe the seats were retractable, when in fact they take 15 days to remove or replace.
This means there are now extra costs and delays which is a major concern given that the stadium’s business plan depends on concerts and other events being held there during the off-season.