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Brown's Olympic Jobs Promise Inflation

Olympic promise inflation has hit a new high with Gordon Brown’s assertion that, in addition to 30,000 construction jobs, "there will be 50,000 jobs permanently created as a result of all the facilities that the Olympic site will make possible for the future", as reported in the Evening Standard ‘PM hails Olympic Job Prospects’. This claim has to be set against the original evidence from the London Development Agency to the Compulsory Purchase Inquiry that the 2012 Olympics would create 6,000 net new permanent jobs! Even that figure was open to question.

In keeping with Olympic spin Mr Brown provided no information on where these jobs would come from to explain the drastic increase in numbers. Recently figures of 25,000 permanent jobs have been touted but this represents a further dramatic advance. As things stand the future of the Media Centre, which is supposed to be the base for many of these new jobs, remains unclear. No further jobs will be created from the various sports facilities. Of course, the same lack of clarity exists over the number of jobs going to local people at the moment as anyone can register a local address and claim to be a resident of an Olympic Borough.

The experience of previous Olympics does not bear out Mr Brown’s claims. Of Barcelona Carolina Del Olmo wrote: ’Between 1987 and 1991 the number of jobs created in the construction sector were only 33.000, a figure much lower than was expected considering that three quarters of the total investment went towards the construction sector. On top of this, all of them were temporary jobs. In the hotel and catering trade sector only 20.000 new jobs appeared and only lasted the duration of the event, again, much less than was expected. In the other sectors, the labour impact was zero (we tend to forget that the Olympic volunteers take on a great amount of tasks that would otherwise generate jobs). During 1992, the number of jobs began to fall.’ According to the GLA Lasting Legacy report Sydney claimed a gain of 2,400 permanent jobs and Athens actually lost 70,000.

As has already occurred with the Stratford City project, almost any new job in the vicinity of the Olympic park will be claimed for the Olympics. In the cases of Barcelona and Sydney the Lasting Legacy report also stated that even the jobs which were gained were ‘created by inward investment and the relocation of companies into the region’ rather than arising from the Olympics. Stratford already has excellent transport links and is situated within easy reach of the City making it a likely location for new jobs whatever happens. Indeed, new plants have recently opened near Stratford High Street and in Leyton taking advantage of this desirable location.

Mr Brown also repeated Tessa Jowell’s face saving argument that the Olympics will act as a counter to the credit crunch. He went on to say "The number of jobs is moving up very, very quickly and it is a good sign in what is a difficult global economic situation. It is a job creator and a growth generator and will also be a huge sporting achievement."

It is difficult to see the logic in this as no more facilities are being built so the number of construction jobs will be more or less the same as before. Likewise increases in the budget, apart from security, are explained by inflation not new spending. It is reminiscent of an ODA claim at a Legacy Now presentation that the rise in the budget to £9.34billion (now more like £10billion) meant more was being spent on the Olympics. Inflation in the budget simply means the same outcome costs more. Spinning a line continues to be a favourite Labour Olympic sport.

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