Francis Maude: Olympics are a winner all round

Horsham MP Francis Maude
Horsham MP Francis Maude

Saturday will mark the first anniversary of the start of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games – I can’t believe a whole year has passed.

The legacy continues and this first anniversary is the perfect opportunity to look at what’s been achieved since those heady days last July and August.

A whole section of East London has been changed forever, people up and down the country have a new-found or rekindled passion for sport, the economy has been boosted, volunteering has increased and, perhaps most significantly of all, awareness and perceptions of disability have been transformed.

Quite incredibly, the UK economy has seen a £9.9bn trade and investment hike since the Games – and we’re only one year into a four year programme. Businesses have secured contract wins, additional sales and new foreign investment and an independent report estimates that the total economic benefit could be in the region of £41bn by 2020 – that’s quite a result!

It’s also been estimated that some 1.4m more people are taking part in a sporting activity once a week than in 2005 – when London secured the Olympic bid. £1bn is being invested in youth and community sport over the five years following the Games – increasing participation and improving facilities. We’ve seen some of that investment in Horsham, not least Broadbridge Heath Cricket Club’s £50,000 grant to refurbish its clubhouse, which, from personal experience, I can say has been put to very good use and is a real boost to the community.

As I write my column it’s yet another beautiful July evening so I thought I’d continue with the positivity and report some pleasing statistics: unemployment was reduced by 57,000 in the last quarter which means that fewer people are claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance than back in May 2010.

What’s more there are currently over half a million job vacancies – in fact, over the last three years 1.3m new private sector jobs have been created – offsetting any lost in the public sector by three to one.

There’s still a lot to be done and the last thing we should do is allow complacency to creep in but, that said, these are positive steps towards recovery and we will continue to press ahead until it’s achieved.

Turning to local matters, I have a busy day planned for Friday – I have my usual advice surgery in the early evening but, conscious that I’ll be taking a couple of weeks off in August, I’ve tried to see as many local residents who’ve requested an appointment as possible, throughout the day. Amongst other things, I’m also having meetings with local councillors and a visit to a local bank – I’ll report back next week!