Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Audit Office Demands Government Produces 'Final' Olympics Budget

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Audit Office Demands Government Produces 'Final' Olympics Budget

Article excerpt

Byline: ROSS LYDALL

THE row over the soaring cost of the London Olympics is set to intensify with new criticism of the failure to publish a final budget.

On Friday the National Audit Office will demand the Government fixes as "a matter of urgency" a financial package outlining how much public money will be ploughed into the 2012 preparations.

The NAO report will assess whether the Games can provide value for money in return for the huge investment being made by national taxpayers, London council taxpayers and proceeds from the National Lottery.

Mayor Ken Livingstone yesterday valued the total financial package at [pounds sterling]5.1 billion - the [pounds sterling]2.3 billion original budget funded mainly by the Lottery and council tax, plus [pounds sterling]1.9 billion of Government regeneration cash and a [pounds sterling]900 million rise in costs outlined in November by Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell.

Last week the Commons Culture select committee called on Chancellor Gordon Brown to "put his hand in his pocket" and pay a fair share of the rising costs rather than rely on extra payments from the Lottery and council tax.

It also said that a cap should be placed on the amount Londoners were contributing, noting that further demands for cash or an ongoing controversy risked undermining public support.

The NAO report will examine whether the financial projections for the Games were mishandled by civil servants, and whether Whitehall departments will be able to keep a grip on the budget in the run-up to 2012.

Auditors are also understood to be "sceptical" about the Chancellor's wish for a 66 per cent contingency fund to be built into the final Olympics budget. This could add a further [pounds sterling]2 billion to the top-line costs, something MPs fear will make feared cost overruns become a reality. …

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