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SOUTH-EAST BURDENED BY COST OF OLYMPICS

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Boroughs fear taxes will rise...
Boroughs fear taxes will rise

By Jennifer Sprinks

Thirty-two councils in the south-east may have to meet unexpected regeneration costs resulting from the Olympics - even though some will receive no direct benefit from their investment.

After the event is over, the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority, covering an area from Ware in Hertfordshire across to east London, will take over responsibility from the Olympic Delivery Authority for the legacy of the Games.

This will mean ensuring any new infrastructure built as a result of the event within the authority boundary is converted for long-term use.

However, as the authority is funded by a statutory levy based on population figures from all 32 London boroughs, plus Hertfordshire CC, Thurrock BC and Essex CC, this means these councils may also be expected to meet any additional contributions needed to pay for the conversions. The levy totals£11.2m in

2005-2006.

As a result, London boroughs such as Sutton, Kingston upon Thames and Richmond upon Thames - which are far away from both the Lee Valley and Olympic parks - are concerned they will be funding regeneration work which will provide little or no direct benefit to their populations.

Richmond's deputy leader Stephen Knight (Lib Dem) said: 'Given that we already have a quarter of a million pounds going into the park authority, we are concerned about any increase in council tax [as a result of contribution increases].

'The way the park authority is funded leaves a lot to be desired. People will see they are paying a large amount of council tax for a project that's a long way away.

'We have paid our contribution to the Olympics, and if this is used as a back door mechanism to pay for future work in the area then we will protest heavily indeed.'

The park authority has already committed funding to adapt the Velodrome and the White Water Canoe slalom course for general community use, such as school or corporate visits, rather than athletic training.

A park authority spokeswoman said that while it had made a three-year commitment not to increase the annual levy by any more than 3%, she could not guarantee against the levy increasing at a later date.

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