£159 million hole uncovered in 2012 land purchase scheme

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The Independent Online

The project to buy up land for the London 2012 Olympics has created a £159 million financial black hole, new papers published today state.

The London Development Agency (LDA), the mayor's business and economic agency, called on accountants KPMG to investigate spending.

The £159 million of "increased Olympic land commitments" dates from 2008/9 to 2011/12 and there is a £94 million shortfall this year, according to the LDA board papers.

The papers state: "This has major implications for the medium and long-term financial position of the agency and these issues will need to be resolved through the set-up arrangements for the Olympic Park Legacy Company and in considering the investment strategy for 2010/11 to 2013/14.

"The impact on the 2009/10 budget is a shortfall of £94 million which needs to be resolved immediately."

The LDA had to pay more than 3,000 businesses and individuals to buy land for the 600 hectare site in Stratford, east London, through compulsory purchase orders but has insisted there is no evidence of wrongdoing.

Revised budgets for 2009/10 "will require careful management to ensure that no further net overspends occur", the papers state.

A second look has been taken at projects planned for this period and a £45 million package of measures including delaying or possibly cutting some projects is proposed.

The schemes in danger of being axed were not named but the LDA is looking at projects which are considered "relatively poor value for money".

The LDA has also asked the Government to delay by several years repayment due this year of a £50 million loan for land acquisition.

Conservative London Assembly member Andrew Boff said: "Utter financial incompetence has blown the LDA's budget with fatal implications for its current programmes.

"To help plug this hole, £45 million will have to be taken from projects this year, which could mean cuts for skills programmes, funding for affordable housing and job brokerage schemes."