Olympics: troubleshooter limbers up

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The Independent Online

The Government has agreed to meet David James, the corporate troubleshooter, over fears that the 2012 Olympics could end up costing taxpayers billions.

Mr James, who is due to become Lord James at the end of this month, has already submitted his concerns. "I'm interested in the Olympics," he said. "There are areas of concern if we're not going to have an escalation of costs. I've put this to the National Audit Office, which is extremely interested, and we've agreed a joint meeting with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport [DCMS] for me to go through it again."

Around £560m will be spent on new venues for the games, and another £650m on building the Olympic Village. In addition, the Government will spend billions redeveloping the Lower Lea Valley area in east London and improving transport.

Mr James is concerned that, like the Millennium Dome, the project has to be completed by a specific date. A "race to finish", he believes, could lead to "lunatic" funding decisions and taxpayers having to bear the burden of greatly increased costs.

He is proposing "a rolling four-week cash-flow analysis" and the appointment of a big accounting firm to oversee all key financial functions.

Mr James has also submitted his concerns to the Policy Unit at Number 10, the London Assembly and "various advisers who are working with the Government". He says lessons must be learnt from previous mistakes: "What has the Dome taught us?"

Mr James, who has been proposed for a peerage by former Conservative leader Michael Howard, was charged with saving the Millennium Dome from financial collapse. He also launched a review of Whitehall expenditure for Mr Howard.

On his upcoming role in the House of Lords, he said he would "maintain a close watch on government costs".