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The BBC's Denise Mahoney
"There is speculation that January's ticket sale have been well down on expectations"
 real 28k

Friday, 28 January, 2000, 18:50 GMT
Dome dogged by loan crisis

Millennium Dome The dome has been dogged by poor publicity

The Millennium Dome could be lent more money to help it over a cash flow crisis.

Downing Street has confirmed that the Millennium Commission is prepared to release more funds for the Dome as it fails to attract the number of visitors needed to break even.

It said that the Millennium Commission would scrutinise ticket sales before agreeing to the loan.

It said that the loan would only be made if the New Millennium Experience Company, operators of the Dome, could prove the cash would be paid back.

It added that more people were currently visiting the dome than any other British tourist attraction.

But in a statement, the Millennium Commission, meeting today to discuss the 758m showcase exhibition's finances, said that it had always envisaged that the project would require cash flow support in its first months and it had a long-standing arrangement with NMEC to deal with this eventuality.

Attendance figures

The loan is believed to be around 60m and would come on top of the 450m lottery grant and a 50m loan made in November.

I cannot rule out the fact that it may need at some stage a short-term cash flow boost
Lord Falconer
The dome is understood to need at least 20,000 visitors a day to break even but takings are reported to be so low that the dome's bosses are struggling to cover the wages of 2,000 staff.

But speaking earlier, Dome Minister Lord Falconer admitted that unless an extra cash injection was received, the Greenwich landmark could struggle.

Lord Falconer Lord Falconer: "Cash needed in short-term"
"It will deliver within its lifetime budget of 758m," he told BBC Radio 5. "I cannot rule out the fact that it may need at some stage a short-term cashflow boost in order to get it to the end of the year."

Although the New Millennium Experience Company has not made any formal application for extra funding, it was expected to make a request during the meeting with the Millennium Commission.

The dome's official budget of 758m is dependent on 194m being generated from ticket sales, merchandising, catering and licensing. Runnings costs are projected to be some 138.4m.

The figures are based on NMEC's predictions that it would sell 12m tickets over the year - an average of 33,000 visitors every day.

The NMEC is hoping the summer tourist season will boost daily attendance figures to compensate for the current shortfall.

'Throwing good money after bad'

But attacking the expected loan, the shadow culture secretary Peter Ainsworth said: "There is absolutely no point in ministers throwing good money after bad.

"The Millennium Commission should not risk 60 million on a project that has been so chronically mishandled.

"The Dome is already a national embarrassment. What guarantee is there that the Dome will not be back begging for more money in a few months time?"

While the Millennium Commission underlined that no other charitable project dependent on lottery money would suffer, Andrew Watt of the Institute of Charity Fund Managers said that many people would not regard the dome as a worthy cause.

"When people buy lottery tickets, most assume the money will go to charity," said Mr Watt. "It is a very moot point whether the Dome can be described as a charity."

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See also:
22 Jan 00 |  Entertainment
Superman drops in at the Dome
17 Jan 00 |  UK
Dome plans whittled down
09 Jan 00 |  UK
Media 'Dome vendetta' attacked
09 Jan 00 |  Business
Dome 'to be sold for 100m'
01 Jan 00 |  UK
Thumbs up for Dome

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