Colin Grainger

Hanging on to our sense of East End unity – MP Lyn Brown

LAB2052 Lyn Brown MP Labour West Ham


In the latest in a series of articles about the Olympics Legacy, probably the most inspirational views come from MP Lyn Brown.

West Ham MP Lyn Brown firmly believes that the goodwill and community spirit that shone brightly last year should not be allowed to fade and die.

“The chance should be grabbed with both hands to build a cohesive community in Newham,” said Lyn.

She told me: “It was wonderful to welcome the world to Newham last summer as we played host to the London 2012 Olympics. As you would expect I consulted local residents before the Games about their concerns around the impact and their general expectations. Before the Olympics took place just under 40 per cent  were really enthusiastic  but after the event 76 per cent  felt they had been good for the local area

“This just confirmed what I already knew about my constituents, they are extremely resilient, prepared to put up with a good deal of inconvenience personally for the greater good of the country and for the future opportunity to regenerate the local area.”

She said: “We been left with some improved services which will hopefully benefit local residents for years to come, such as the state-of-the-art Polyclinic built in the Olympic Village site, but as of yet not enough jobs and not enough affordable homes. We were able to use the Games to bring quickly into the area investments that might have taken many years more otherwise – for example, Westfield and all the opportunity it offers.

“And now we are tentatively starting the process of understanding what the Olympic Park might bring to Newham in the future now that we are on the world map following the Games. The priority now is to give local people confidence that it is their turn now, time for their dreams and the  dreams of their children and grandchildren to be met.  We need a bit more clarity, what exactly is on offer for my constituents, how do they keep themselves updated, how can they pass on what they think? “

And so what are the priorities now for the future of Newham and east London seven months on?

“The priority for the future in Newham and east London – as it is now and has been for some considerable time – is jobs for local residents and not just entry level jobs, but sustainable enduring career opportunities.  It is true that some Newham residents were able to get employment during the Games but simply not enough.  People are hurting at the moment,   it is a struggle to make ends meet, there is a lot of insecurity around and yes, a bit of disappointment that the Olympics have come and gone

“Talking to my constituents they are clear where they want the effort to go – more jobs and greater opportunities for local small businesses to grow and they want more affordable homes

The recent announcement that West Ham United will  be moving into the Stadium has been welcomed by most people that I have spoken to even if they are not Hammers fans. It means the sporting legacy can live on, the sense of community and belonging, the feeling of pride can and will go on.

I am hopeful that international services will start to operate from Stratford and I am mindful of the talks with Deutsche Bahn that are happening now.

“London as a city is moving Eastwards and we must continue to show off all that we can offer.It is important that we continue to encourage residents and visitors to enjoy the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park as it develops and opens and to make the most of the facilities available to them.

What should the Government be doing for the area to ensure all that goodwill is not just lost and forgotten?

“Where do I start? I am afraid that a Government would need a modicum of imagination, more drive, more vision and certainly a different ethos than this one, if it would be able to make the most of the Olympic Park and the opportunities it offers.

“Many people in Newham vested a lot of hope in what the Olympics would the Borough. Whilst that hope has not completely disappeared, neither has it been realised. We need investment in the Olympic Park, just like we need investment in the economy. to stimulate the growth and provide jobs. I have every faith in the people of Newham to overcome the challenges that face them with true character but the Government should be doing much more to help.”

And what can the councils be doing?

“This is a really difficult time to be a local councillor, probably even harder than when I sat on Newham Council in the 80s and 90s. Newham has been hit by cuts of over 30 per cent in funding which makes its intervention in the Park and legacy for local people so much harder to achieve.”

She added: “I am hopeful that the Council will use its influence to bend the plans and programmes for the Park to best serve the people of Newham. I know the Council is capable of being creative, however currently, times are extremely challenging.

What can businesses do?

“I am delighted that West Ham Football Club is to be the anchor tenant for the Olympic Stadium. We can create around the Club a buzz for the Stadium and the Park that will I hope attract other major cultural entities to the area.

“In my vision I had hoped to see created here a Tate East, an East End that rivalled the west for visitor attractions and cultural diversity.  I want to see “Cats” performed here and regular performances by the ROH and the Royal Ballet.  I want the Olympic Park to be able to offer culture to everybody and in doing so, create aspiration amongst our young people and much needed jobs and careers.

“East London is known for its ingenuity, perseverance and its entrepreneurial spirit which many businesses cultivate and capitalise on but from my surveys, I know some of our local businesses found it difficult to break into the tender processes around the Games and the subsequent development of the Park. But still, they sought out different ways of making the Games work for them. I know many try to offer apprenticeships and other work based training opportunities for local people – I am grateful to them and delighted that there are encouraging new signs in the park, for example –  60 construction apprentices

“Local small businesses were not wholly convinced that the Olympics would be a bonus for them either in the immediate run up to or in the longer term.  Too many local businesses were not involved in the Olympics at all. There is a real job of work to do here to be constantly in touch with local people who run businesses no matter how small to encourage and support them to grab opportunities.  It is not too late for someone with an idea to share it, get some help to develop it and make it happen as part of the legacy.

“The small business people and entrepreneurs I have spoken to want support with developing and improving skills; some help with bringing their goods and services to people’s attention and access to new ideas to help them diversify and survive in this global economy. I know this about my constituents they have clever ideas, they work hard and they want a chance to get on.

With Stephen Timms, MP for East Ham, I hosted a jobs fair in May.  Local employers tell me that the appetite of our young people who want careers is tangible – so businesses from all over should engage with our local talent at the fair and get in touch with me or Stephen if they want to take part.

What can we all do as individuals?

“Keep the Faith. 2012 was a hard year for many, with families struggling financially, jobs being lost or hours reduced. Families are faced with difficult choices about how to spend limited money, how to eke it out.  It is more important than ever before that we make the most of the massive investment in the Games to truly change lives for the positive, across generations

“In these challenging times, it is important that we hang onto that sense of unity as we look past the difficult days facing us and towards the better times ahead. We need to keep hold of the community spirit that the Olympics highlighted and which has always been a feature of London’s East End.”


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