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Lasting legacy or missed opportunity?

The scale of what needs to be done to ensure that the promised Olympic legacy is achieved in the London borough of Newham has been set out in the initial findings of a new study.

The study, led by Professor Anne Power for the poverty charity Elizabeth Finn Care, began in early 2012 with an examination of Newham prior to the announcement of the successful bid in 2005. LSE researchers then compared these results with available data up to the present day.

Initial findings from the research show the scale of deprivation facing the borough, as well as the progress that has been made:

Annual household income rose between 2006 and 2011, but more slowly than in London or nationally. In 2011, incomes were lower than London and similar to the national average (Newham £26,681; London £31,935; national £26,615).

trackNewham saw much larger increases in unemployment between 2005 and 2010 than the rest of London, but less than the rest of the UK (increases = Newham 44%; London 21%; national 59%). In 2005, the unemployment rate was already double the national average and much higher than the rest of London (Newham 13.7%; London 8.8%; national 7.8%).

There has been an increase in the number of enterprises in the borough between 2008 and 2011 whereas London and England saw a reduction (Newham increase 6%; London decrease 0.4%; England decrease 4%).

The 1990s saw very poor education attainment levels. Pupils achieving 5 GCSEs A*-C: Newham 23%; national 46%. There had been a huge improvement by 2005: Newham 51%; national 57%. This improvement continued after the announcement in 2005 and Newham has now overtaken the national average.

Total crime has fallen since 2005, including decreases in violent crime and criminal damage (violent crime decrease from 32.79 offences per 1000 population to 22.31; criminal damage decrease from 18.29 to 15.27). However, there has been a large increase in drug offences (2.9 offences per 1000 population to 10.89).

Private rents are much lower than in surrounding boroughs despite the Olympics (Hackney, Tower Hamlets) and cheaper than the London average (mean monthly average for 2-bed property: Newham £833; London £980; Hackney £1,135; Tower Hamlets £1,196).

Increases in house prices since the announcement of the Olympics have been marginal, despite a much larger increase in London prices (3.5% increase in Newham 2005-2012; 32.5% increase in London; 2.2% increase nationally).

There has been a year-on-year decrease in council housing stock since 2005 (22,992 properties to 17,547 by 2012). However, Housing Association stock now stands at 13,065, up from 10,839 in 2005.

Professor Anne Power pointed out that much of what has been promised for Olympic legacy may not be seen until long after the athletes have gone home.

She said: “The benefits of Olympic regeneration cannot be assessed in weeks or even months. It is intended that this initial analysis will form only a small part of a longer-term study into the impact of the Games on surrounding communities. We look forward to delivering a substantive report next summer and continuing our work with Elizabeth Finn Care over a number of years, so that the true legacy of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity can be decisively demonstrated.”

Malcolm Tyndall, a director at Elizabeth Finn Care, said: “It was Jack Straw, following the success of London’s bid in 2005, who said ‘The Games will transform one of the poorest and most deprived areas of London. They will create thousands of jobs and homes.

“As a charity working at the coalface of financial need, Elizabeth Finn Care is acutely aware of how much hope the Olympics is inspiring in local people. We want to examine whether all that was promised, is delivered, and if not, use this research to inform future regeneration projects to ensure they work for the whole community.”

A full report, taking into account what happens in the year after the closing ceremony will be delivered in August 2013.

Posted July 3 2012