Express & Star

'Pandemic not to blame' for £25 million Commonwealth Games funding shortfall

Any shortfall in funding for this summer’s Commonwealth Games should not be blamed on the pandemic, a councillor has said.

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Sandwell Aquatics Centre's pool has been filled for the first time ahead of the Commonwealth Games

And he has claimed that officials were warned of the potential shortfall for years, with the council now being forced to fill the gap.

This week it was revealed that partner contributions to funding the Games have not met expectations, with only £50 million of the £75m accounted for thus far.

This means that the remaining £25m will have to be drawn down from the council’s Corporate Capital Contingency.

Finance officer Guy Olivant said at the meeting: “The overall funding of that [The Games] budget includes £184m of local contributions from Birmingham City Council and our funding partners. That continues to be maintained as that cash limit.

“As the paper sets out, the original hope was that we would be able to secure £75m from local partners. We have managed to secure only £50 million of that unfortunately – that includes significant contributions from the Great Birmingham and Solihull LEP, from the Combined Authority and, by the end of this financial year, that £50m will all have been secured and be in the council’s coffers.

“There has been a huge amount of work to try to secure more funding contributions than that but, particularly in recent years with Covid and such-like, creating huge pressures on everybody’s budgets, it unfortunately hasn’t been possible for us to get beyond that £50 million.

“As a mitigation for that it was agreed as part of the 2021/22 budget to set aside £25m of capital contingency money in the event that we couldn’t get beyond the £50 million. And we did set out in the report to cabinet back in July 2021 that that would be required. And that is now in the process of being drawn down, to make sure we’ve got that full funding in place and those capital programmes and the council’s other commitments through the host city contract delivered in full.”

However Conservative councillor Meirion Jenkins disagreed with Covid being used as an excuse, telling the committee: “It brought a smile to my face when the pandemic got the blame for not being able to raise the partner contributions that were required.

“You know we were saying, I think maybe two years ago, certainly long before the pandemic started, that these partner contributions were at risk. And a number of us were sceptical as to whether they would be achieved. And of course they haven’t been achieved.

“And I think like so many things the pandemic is now getting the blame, but I don’t think it’s anything at all to do with the reason we haven’t raised these partner contributions.”

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries toured the new aquatics centre being built for the Games on Thursday where she claimed there was no funding gap.

She said: “There’s £778m going into this project, with three quarters of it coming from the Government and 25 percent from the council, and this is being met through funding from other partners, so there is no shortfall.”