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Friday, 1 February, 2002, 05:24 GMT
Government's Dome handling attacked
Inside the Millennium Dome
The report says too many visitors were expected at the Dome
A catalogue of failings surrounding the government's management of the Millennium Dome have been highlighted by a powerful House of Commons spending committee.

In a report it criticises the Culture Department for its "wholly unacceptable" decision to offer Dome bosses a guarantee against any losses.

The indemnity offered by the department demonstrated a lack of tranparency and "must not be repeated", said Conservative MP Edward Leigh, chairman of the Public Accounts Committee.

The report also attacks the Culture Department for failing to acknowledge the financial problems of the Dome until late in the day.

It goes on to say it was wrong to approve a target of 12 million admission-paying visitors, when planning on the basis of eight million had been recommended.

The department rejected the findings, claiming the indemnity was not a secret and many of the other findings were "old issues".

Public purse

The guarantee of protection against losses was offered to the directors of the New Millennium Experience Company (NMEC) in June 2000.

We should bear in mind that 6.5 million visitors enjoyed their time at the Dome

Culture Department spokesman
It opened up for the first time the risk of voted money rather than National Lottery money being for the Dome project in Greenwich, south London, according to the report.

The committee said: "In our view, the indemnity was outside the normal course of business and exposed the public purse to expenditure of such a nature and size that Parliament should have been notified."

But the Culture Department and the Treasury did not report their actions to Parliament as they considered an indemnity was already in place, it was claimed.

The report added: "If that is so, we find it surprising that no reference to such an existing indemnity was made in the letter which the department sent to the (NMEC) directors."

Key findings

Among the other key findings of the report were:

  • The organisational arrangements for the Dome project were elaborate and complex and "gave rise to confusion and disagreement".

  • The internal structure of NMEC was not ideally suited to the task.

  • Not until "late in the day" did NMEC, the Culture Department and the Millennium Commission face up to the financial problems of the project.

  • In approving the Dome target of 12 million admission-paying visitors, the Millennium Commissioners went against the advice of their own staff who recommended planning on the basis of eight million.

  • Many more commercial opportunities could have been exploited if the marketing arrangements had been properly planned and managed.

  • Delays in fitting out the Dome meant few opportunities for trial running and NMEC lacked senior staff with experience of running a large visitor attraction.

  • The effectiveness of marketing was constrained by uncertainty about the Dome's contents.

  • The company's forecast for sponsorship income was too ambitious and there was no clear plan of how the parties would respond to a shortfall in income.

  • NMEC failed to establish a "sufficiently robust regime of financial management", with its finance team overstretched for most of 2000.

See also:

18 Dec 01 | UK Politics
The Dome - first line to last rites
12 Nov 01 | UK
Dome running costs 'soar'
03 Nov 01 | UK
Duke drops Dome bid
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