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Monday, 12 November, 2001, 14:07 GMT
Dome running costs 'soar'
The Government said it was 'rubbish' that the Dome had been withdrawn from sale
The troubled Millennium Dome is still on the market
The cost of keeping the Millennium Dome since it closed as a visitor attraction almost a year ago has exceeded 20m, it has been reported.

The company which ran the Dome, the New Millennium Experience Company (NMEC) has also been retaining the services of a PR company, despite there having been no media access to the site since March, The Times reported.

The deadline for the latest round of bidders to take over the Greenwich attraction expired on Sunday, and the government said there were a number of potential buyers still interested.

The Conservatives, seeking to prevent more public money being spent on the site, have demanded the government goes public on its plans for the Dome's future.

Shadow culture secretary Tim Yeo told the BBC: "It's important that good money should not be thrown after bad, either from the lottery of the taxpayer.

"What is needed now is to get the site moving again, instead of the continued muddle and secrecy which seems to be the centre of the government's approach."

'Public money'

On Monday The Times reported that the Dome's running costs - which two weeks ago were reported by ministers to be around 13m - had soared to 21.5m.

These costs were said to cover expenses such as security, heating, lighting, cleaning, rates and the services of blue chip PR firm Cardew & Co.

The paper also reported that medical charity the Wellcome Trust and property consortium Quintain submitted tenders in the latest round of bidding.

Tories say a full public statement should be made about the Dome.
Lord Falconer.

A row over the Dome's sale blew up on Saturday, after another newspaper claimed Housing Minister Lord Falconer had been considering plans to keep the site in public hands and to lease it out to private companies.

But government officials moved to refute the claims, saying the Greenwich site is still for sale and discussions are continuing with a number of would-be buyers.

A spokesman for Lord Falconer's office said on Saturday: "The Dome is still for sale and we are talking to a number of serious contenders to buy the Dome."

He said there was no timetable for the sale.

He declined to comment on speculation that the Dome might be leased while the land around it is sold off, stressing that such matters were "commercially confidential".

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's John Pienaar in Greenwich
"A property consortium is said to be interested"
See also:

10 Nov 01 | UK
Dome 'still for sale'
03 Nov 01 | UK
Duke drops Dome bid
26 Feb 01 | UK Politics
New calls for Dome minister to go
23 Apr 01 | UK Politics
Dome 'empty for years' claim denied
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