The poor performance of a construction training centre hailed as an Olympic legacy for Waltham Forest has been blamed on the economic downturn by the council.

Last week it was revealed that the Cathall Road National Skills Academy in Leytonstone has failed to provide the promised number of annual apprenticeships for local people.

When the £7.24million centre opened late in 2010 the council said it would help train 160 apprentices each year, but in just over two years only 105 have studied there.

The authority has been unable to provide figures for how many of the total trainees are from Waltham Forest, but said only 19 per cent of apprentices and funded learners were from the borough.

In a statement to the Guardian, the council's cabinet member for economic development, Cllr Mark Rusling, admitted the apprenticeship figure was "disappointing" but said he was confident people would benefit from the centre in future.

However he distanced himself from a council officers' report signed off by his predecessor Cllr Afzal Akram in 2011, which pledged that the academy would train 1,000 unemployed Waltham Forest residents every year.

He said: “The National Construction Centre is, as the name suggests, not a facility exclusive to the residents of Waltham Forest and it is therefore to be expected that a good deal of its intake will come from other boroughs.

"It is however a great asset to the borough and the council obviously has a vested interest in it performing to its full potential – not just in the short term, but for decades to come.

"As a council we’re determined to find long-term solutions to the problems of skill shortages and unemployment in the borough, not short term fixes."

He said that the centre was making progress and had filled 1,461 training places in 2012.

Cllr Rusling added: “It is of course right to acknowledge the fact that in these difficult times with the limited growth of the economy – not least in the field of construction – that some areas have not taken off as well as they might.

"In particular it is disappointing that the numbers of apprenticeships have fallen below expectations, and the council will be addressing these issues with the NCC."

A spokeswoman for the National Construction College (NCC) organisation, which is contracted to run the centre, also blamed the economy.

She said: “Industry is facing one of its most challenging economic environments and has seen the number of new apprentices joining the industry decline by over 7,500 since the start of the downturn. 

"In 2012, over 50 per cent of the 13,000 new construction apprentices joining the industry were supported through funding from CITB-ConstructionSkills and annually, the National Construction College (NCC) trains 6,000 construction apprentices, with 99 per cent going on to achieve full-time employment within six months of leaving training."

But community worker and researcher Nick Tiratsoo, who uncovered the figures, said: "This is a by now familiar story of extravagant claim followed by mediocre performance.

"The only losers as always are the young and unemployed."