Information about my work as a Labour Councillor for East Finchley in the London Borough of Barnet

Monday, 13 August 2012

Olympic success wasn't overnight

As we look forward to the Paralympic Games, to start soon, It's worth remembering that Team GB's record medal haul was not an accident, it was from years of hard work. Hard work by the athletes and coaches of course, and they both get deserved praise and acclaim.

What we do need to recognise is the importance of sport funding and the role of politicians in sporting success. In the first instance, £125 million has been spent on elite Olympic training, and David Cameron has promised to continue that level until 2016. (In fact it's a cut as there will be no inflation matching rises, but that won't make too big a difference) But the government also need to keep the onus on sports funding in schools and communities. Thanks to the Academies Bill, local councils have less say on the school spending, but can facilitate the use of community sport facilities by local schools. This already happens, and I assume well, as I have not heard complaint on the subject.

The council gets a fair bit of "Section 106" money, which is contributions from planning applications to a set of funds for various community needs, eg. libraries, playing fields, transport works etc. I would like to see the government try and push this more, to get more funds out of development for community use. They should take care to make sure it isn't from home improvements, but from developers, who will make profits out of it.

We should also recognise the impact of various politicians for whom these successful Olympics would not have been possible. Boris Johnson is a shameless self publicist, and actually deserves little praise for the delivery, which happened more or less without his input. David Cameron has come out of the Olympics even worse than he went in, which is scarcely believable. He is now a figure of ridicule and the public seem to have run out of patience with him. This has been very quick transformation, but he is capable of a comeback. If you were to give him and Osborne any credit, it would be that they didn't mess anything up, and didn't cut the budgets.

On our side, I think it sad that few people give credit where it's due, Tessa Jowell in particular put in herculean efforts. So did Richard Caborn and Tony Blair, neither of whom have received proper thanks.

I say this because the character of this generation's politicians will be important for the future of sport. If they have a genuine interest in sport, and have the will for our athletes to excel they will put in the efforts like Tessa did. I am not sure I see that. I think the government are only really happy to support self funding sports like tennis, cricket, football and rugby, at the detriment of the rest of Olympic sports. I wonder if the elite sports funding will last, but I doubt it if there are future spending freezes.

So well done to all, but let's keep the infrastructure in place for more Olympic success in the future.