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Tuesday, 5 September, 2000, 18:55 GMT 19:55 UK
Dome's 47m handout condemned
Millennium Dome
Without the cash, the Dome operators faced liquidation
The Millennium Commission's decision to grant an extra 47m to the Dome has been widely condemned by MPs on various political hues.

Dome finance
399 in lottery money
160m in sponsorship
85m in commercial revenue
Nov 1999 - 50m subsidy
Jan 2000 - 60m subsidy
May 2000 - 29m subsidy
Aug 2000 - 43m sale advance
Sep 2000 - 40m more?

The commission said it was "deeply disappointing" to have to give more lottery money to the attraction, but said that without the handout the Dome's operators - the New Millennium Experience Company (NMEC) - would have gone into liquidation.

The injection of cash came just months after the Dome received 29m in National Lottery money and a 43m advance from the sale of the attraction to a Japanese bank.

Shadow Culture Secretary Peter Ainsworth described the Dome as a "national embarrassment" and said it should be closed in October.

'Political vanity'

"Only political vanity is keeping this this project open and if the reports are accurate the scale of waste simply beggars belief."

Mr Ainsworth later called for Lord Falconer - the minister with responsibility for the Dome - to resign, adding: "If this is not a resignation matter then I don't know what is."


It was a regrettable decision, but I'm quite sure it was the right decision

Lord Falconer
"Lord Falconer is the sole shareholder in NMEC which has been accused of serious financial mismanagement."

Liberal Democrat spokesman Matthew Taylor told the BBC: "It's time to call an end to this."

"This money could have been spent on pensioners, it could have been spent on the health service," he said.

"Instead it's been spent on bailing out a company that's providing a product that people don't want to see."

'National scandal'

Labour backbencher Bob Marshall-Andrews described the injection of cash as a "national scandal".

He dismissed the commission's argument that it would have been more expensive to close the Dome immediately.

But Lord Falconer, defended the cash handout, saying the attraction was a success which had regenerated east London.

"It was a difficult decision, a regrettable decision, but I'm quite sure it was the right decision," he told the BBC.

Chairman 'moves aside'

The announcement of the cash injection came with news that David Quarmby, the chairman of the NMEC, has stepped down.

BBC correspondent Susanna Reid said the NMEC denied he had resigned, saying Mr Quarmby had "moved aside" to make way for an executive chairman.

The Body Zone
The Dome received 43m from the new owners

Mr Quarmby took over as chairman from Bob Ayling who resigned from the board of the NMEC in May.

Businessman David James becomes the new executive chairman of the Dome.

Described by BBC media correspondent Torin Douglas as a "company doctor who has rescued many companies in the past", Mr James was confident the deal would enable the Dome to "trade right through to 31 December".

It was, Mr James said, the best strategy available and would also provide the resources needed to close the Dome at the end of the year.

Mr James will not be charging a fee for his services, saying this could be seen as a conflict of interest.

Visitor targets not met

The news of a request for more money came in the week Dome bosses admitted it had failed to attract enough visitors in August to meet its target of seven million visitors by the end of the year.

Staff at the Dome, which cost 509m in lottery money to be built, had been banking on the holiday month to boost visitor numbers.

In total, the project has received 132m from subsidies and sales advances to keep the Dome open until the end of the year, when Nomura takes over the project.

In July the Japanese company Nomura was given the contract to run the Dome from next year.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Nick Higham
"The Millennium Commission blames failures in financial management"
Director of the Millennium Commission, Mike O'Connor
"We regret spending this lottery money"
Minister for the Dome, Lord Falconer
"I am determined to stick with this project"
Chairman of NMEC, David James CBE
"The funding was going to be put up only if I took the job"

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