Gordon Brown negotiating a deal, say sources

Tessa Jowell, the culture secretary, is being lined up as chair of the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) once Tony Blair resigns as prime minister later this year.

Building understands that Jowell is negotiating a deal with advisers of chancellor Gordon Brown, who is expected to take over from Blair as head of the government.

Jowell would step down as MP for Dulwich and West Norwood and take up the £200,000-a-year post at the ODA.

Sir Roy McNulty has been acting chair since Jack Lemley resigned last October and it is understood that he will remain in place until a successor can take over. This is likely to be in June.

There has been speculation in the press that Brown wants Jowell out of the cabinet when he takes over the reins and this would be a way to achieve that.

A senior Whitehall source said: “Brown wants to start afresh and Jowell is seen as having too close ties with Blair. This is seen as a good solution as it lets Jowell step aside gracefully.”

But the move would be sure to cause fresh controversy for the ODA after a series of damaging events in the past three months.

These began with the sudden and acrimonious resignation of Lemley, who later claimed that one of the reasons he had left was because the government was ignoring high levels of radiation on the proposed sites.

Then Jowell admitted to MPs in November that the budget for the 2012 Games had risen by £900m from the initial figure of £2.38bn.

She said reasons included the result of unpredictable costs in cleaning up the site and rises in material costs and construction inflation.

A Whitehall source expressed scepticism about such an appointment, saying Jowell’s strength was as a mediator rather than an organiser and campaigner, which was what the job needed.

The source said: “Jowell is an odd choice for this as she is a lightning rod and that is not at all what the project needs. It needs to be about the project and supporting the delivery team to get on with the job.”

It is unclear whether or not the ODA will advertise the post. It has previously said that it was “in no rush” to replace Lemley.

Others who have been tipped for the role include Sir Peter Mason, the former chief executive of Amec, and John Armitt, who stepped down as chief executive of Network Rail in December.