Letter: White elephant of public enterprise

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The Independent Online
Sir: K. E. C. Sorensen (Letters, 1 July) argues we should all be more charitable to London Docklands. He says that the pounds 1bn the Development Corporation has received in grants since 1987 has been good value for money.

I am not prepared to be so forgiving. Docklands is the most expensive white elephant in the history of UK property development. It has soaked the public purse to the tune of an estimated pounds 2.5bn.

Yet when Docklands was launched by Conservative ministers in the early Eighties it was hailed as a flagship that would demonstrate what unfettered private enterprise could achieve. A decade on the flagship is not only floundering, it is being kept afloat only by an enormous sea of public subsidy.

It has diverted resources away from more worthwhile and cost- effective investment in training, manufacturing and infrastructure. Contrast the never-ending supply of public funds it receives to the savage cuts in the regional aid budget since 1979.

The property boom fuelled by spending in areas such as Docklands has landed us all in the economic mess we are now in. Docklands should not be let off the hook; it stands as a monument to a failed Conservative economic policy.

Yours faithfully,

ALAN MILBURN

MP for Darlington (Lab)

House of Commons

London, SW1

8 July

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