Tories Gang Up On Jowell

It may be that they’ll have to wait until the Concert Promoters Association has finished giving British culture secretary Tessa Jowell a verbal kicking over her failure to deal with ticket scalping, but it seems the entire Tory party is lining up to take shots at her over the escalating cost of the 2012 Olympics.

Commentators are already making grumbling comparisons with the amount of money that was swallowed up by The Dome, and now the Conservatives have set up a committee of business experts to scrutinise the planning and expenditure.

Jowell has admitted that the cost of the Olympic park has gone up by £900 million since London won the bid to host the event 18 months ago. At the same time, the National Audit Office, which monitors government spending, has warned that failure to agree a budget could have a "detrimental impact" on the games by making it difficult to plan properly and by creating uncertainty in contract negotiations.

The Conservatives’ committee, which will be chaired by former British Land chief exec John Ritblat and includes former Metropolitan police commissioner Lord Stevens, is going to be looking over the government’s shoulder to see that it doesn’t waste money or get fleeced.

"The Olympics are great for London, great for Britain and a great opportunity for all of us. But we have got to get this right," said shadow sports minister Hugh Robertson, while pointing out that the committee will "really get to grips with the project’s challenges."

The government is responding by saying that the debate over the Olympic budget is a natural part of the democratic process, while Jowell has accused the Tories of playing politics with the Games.

The new Tory party committee will look at the costs, timetable and delivery of the construction programme, cost control, the regeneration impact the games have on London and the effect on participation in sport and security.

Lord Stevens will take the lead on this last issue, examining the security budget, which was originally estimated at £213 million but is expected to rocket thanks to the increased threat since the July 7 bombings in 2005.

"An incoming Conservative government will make delivering a successful Olympic Games central to our agenda. We can’t afford to waste time. That’s why we’re announcing the creation of the Olympics oversight committee to advise us," Robertson explained.

The Games organisers have finally ruled out the use of the Olympic Stadium as a football ground after the event is over, saying the proposals by West Ham football club would require too many design changes and delay the whole project.