Amendment 1

Part of Birmingham Commonwealth Games Bill [HL] - Committee – in the House of Lords at 3:20 pm on 9th July 2019.

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Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Labour 3:20 pm, 9th July 2019

My Lords, Amendment 1 is the lead amendment to Amendment 5. Let me make it clear at the outset that the amendments I shall be moving today are the ideas and gifts of my noble friend Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, who, because of his duties on the General Medical Council, is unable to be here today. Furthermore, I took last week off on holiday and therefore I was not party to any of the discussions that took place on these amendments. However, I agree with them and that is why I am moving them.

It is important that there is a proper legacy from this massively exciting enterprise. I shall not go through the proposed new clause which Amendment 5 seeks to introduce in detail, but there are three essential parts to it. It seeks to place a duty on the Secretary of State, on the Government, that there should be a legacy plan, which is important. It contains a list of non-prescriptive issues which may be in such a legacy plan. However, it also contains a requirement that, if there is a legacy plan, it must include a budget and a funding plan. This is absolutely crucial, as I shall explain in more detail. Under subsection (6) of the proposed new clause, there is a firm commitment in the legacy plan in relation to housing.

Without a budget and a funding plan, the legacy plan would not be worth the paper it was written. Therefore, if the Secretary of State directs the Organising Committee to prepare such a legacy plan, it must include a budget and a funding plan. It is crucial for two reasons. First, it is accepted that the amount of time Birmingham and the Government have had for organising these Games is much shorter than normal, simply because we are taking over the Games that were planned for Durban. We must take account of that. Secondly, there is the question of Birmingham City Council’s finances. I am unfamiliar with the detail—I do not pay council tax in Birmingham and have not done so since 2002—but I am aware that there have been issues relating to the budget in recent years, which led to an improvement panel being imposed on the city by the Secretary of State for Communities.

The point that I am about to make is the only one that can be considered partisan. When the current administration in Birmingham took over the city council, it followed eight years of a Tory/Liberal coalition, which had built a fantastic library—a brilliant facility—with mega millions of capital expenditure. However, what did it leave in the revenue budget for running that library? Zero. It had a catastrophic effect on the finances of the city. I am not saying all the effects are down to the library, but it is an example of where a capital project had an effect on Birmingham’s finances. It was instituted and organised by the noble Lord, Lord Whitby, who is not in his place—I have not given him any warning about this because I have only just thought of raising it. As a result of the short time available before the Games and the fragility, if I can put that way, of Birmingham’s finances, it is important that there is a budget and a funding plan. These two reasons make it vital.

I have had no discussions with anybody in Birmingham about this because I have not had time. As I said at Second Reading, I went to the meeting at Alexander Stadium to discuss the plans for the stadium. That was about three weeks ago. I have no role in the city. I have been on a few things since I have been in your Lordships’ House—the governing body of Aston University, Castle Vale Neighbourhood Partnership Board and James Brindley hospital school—but none of them is current. However, I love the city and I visit it regularly as I have family there.

There is an issue linked to the paragraph about housing. I touched on this briefly at Second Reading. The games village will be homes for more than 6,000 athletes and officials. It is an exciting prospect for the location. I understand it will yield 1,400 new homes and kick off a wider regeneration plan to deliver up to 5,000 homes in that location. It is a very good location. Some things are going to change in the road network, but the location is sitting on top of a suburban railway station—and there are not that many in Birmingham—and it is very close to the M6/M5 junction at Great Barr, so it is an excellent location. It is a prime site.

The planning for that housing must create a community, not a commuter village. If there are no restrictions or plans, the temptation is that it will be a commuter village for the city or for access outside it simply because of its location. I will not go into detail about where it is, but anybody who looks at the plans can see that there will be 1,400 to 5,000 dwellings in this location. We have got to create a community; otherwise, the temptation, if it is left to the private sector, is that it will be a commuter village. A community needs well-designed, sustainable homes of mixed sizes and mixed tenure and the infrastructure that goes with up to 5,000 dwellings, which includes at least one or two primary schools. We must be realistic about this. This needs a plan and, therefore, the housing aspect is important for the legacy plan.

The legacy is for the West Midlands. There are major capital projects, and success afterwards will be in the working of the five pillars of the Games’ mission: to bring people together; to improve health and well-being; to help regional growth to succeed—my view and that of others from the region is that it has always punched below its weight; to be a catalyst for change—this is a golden opportunity because it is a massive budget; and to put the West Midlands on the map. It is quite clear from the evidence that previous Commonwealth Games have delivered significant benefits. Not all of them did, but the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014 made a significant contribution of almost £1 billion to the Scottish economy, and the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast in 2018 gave an almost £1.5 billion boost to Queensland. However, that does not happen unless it is managed, and you cannot manage it unless you have a plan. This is why the Government ought to be seriously thinking about embracing the fact that the Games need a legacy plan in the way set out in the amendment. I beg to move.