Friday, 4 March 2011

A local story of commerce and politics ...

I live on the outskirts of what might be termed "West Ham territory", and could get to their present stadium in about 15 minutes by car. A bus route from outside my abode passes Upton Park. It isn't cheerful territory at the moment, since West Ham appear to be quite firmly established in the relegation zone of the Premier League. I believe they are also a club with quite a big debt, though debt is not something that makes a football club insolvent. Relegation to the Championship, though, would have a serious financial implication for the club, particularly if they were to remain in the Championship for more than one season.

So one wouldn't think that West Ham United would be a good choice for taking on the flagship project of occupying the 2012 Olympic Stadium when that stadium goes into its "legacy" phase.

Yet their bid has been chosen by the Olympic Park Legacy Company as "preferred bidder", and that choice has been approved by central government and the Mayor of London. The bid involves the setting up of a company by West Ham United and the London Borough of Newham to run the stadium in its legacy phase, with West Ham playing their home fixtures at the ground. West Ham's own report of the approval is here.

A key part of the bid appears to be a loan of £40m arranged through the local authority, the London Borough of Newham. If I have understood the story correctly, favourable terms have been gained for this loan because it is based on Newham's credit rating, giving access to more favourable terms than would have been the case if West Ham United had sought a loan in another way. This report of the approval of that loan by the Council of the London Borough of Newham appeared on the BBC news site on the same day that the Council voted on it at the end of January. Do read it.

And yesterday the BBC news site reported that it would be the local residents of Newham who would be liable for the £40m loan if the West Ham United project were to fail. Do read this report, too.

Just a local story of commerce and politics in local government .....

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