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Last Updated: Friday, 12 October 2007, 12:21 GMT 13:21 UK
Arts venue 'not affected' by debt
Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff
The auditorium inside the Wales Millennium Centre
The Wales Millennium Centre (WMC) says it is "business as usual" after concerns were raised about its 13.5m debt and possible future losses.

Auditors say the 106m arts centre is in danger of insolvency and the assembly government has been criticised for not making the difficulties public.

The WMC issued a statement reassuring the public that the centre was not affected by talks over its finances.

It said it had been in talks with the assembly government for some time.

The statement from the WMC said independent consultants had concluded that WMC was "well managed and has achieved extraordinary success."

It said: "It has gained a reputation as an outstanding iconic arts resource nationally and internationally."

Reassure customers

The WMC has been in negotiations with the assembly government "for some time regarding its overall funding position".

The statement concluded: "The centre's board and management would like to reassure all its customers, suppliers and supporters that this won't affect existing and future commitments and it is business as usual."

News of the centre's financial difficulties was revealed by BBC Wales's Dragon's Eye programme on Thursday.

It obtained an unpublished review which said the debt, currently guaranteed by the assembly government until December, could not be repaid by the WMC and should be removed.

The review was completed in June.

Welsh Conservative culture spokesman Paul Davies said it was "a dire situation" and he questioned why the report had only just surfaced.

Gwyneth Lewis
I think it would be nothing short of a catastrophe if the centre wasn't allowed to achieve its full potential
Poet Gwyneth Lewis

"The debt has not accumulated overnight. It appears the previous Labour assembly government tried to bury the problem.

"The original business plan and documents set out before building began projected the Wales Millennium Centre would make a profit. We need to know why it has made such huge losses."

In its annual accounts for 2006, filed on Tuesday, WMC's auditors KPMG said "considerable uncertainty" in achieving a settlement with the assembly government "may cast significant doubt about the group's ability to continue as a going concern."

First-class institution

Culture Minister Rhodri Glyn Thomas said he could not give an interview to BBC Wales because of commercial confidentiality

But an assembly government spokesperson said it fully understood the affection in which the WMC was held, and "the concern that has been expressed about the financial difficulties that the centre is facing."

WMC chairman Lord Rowe-Beddoe is to meet Mr Thomas on Monday and the centre hopes that the assembly government will repay the 13.5m loan and increase its subsidy to between 3m and 4m a year.

The venue maintains its subsidy is only 6% ot its income.

Poet Gwyneth Lewis, who wrote the words which adorn the front of the landmark building in Cardiff Bay, said the centre was very important.

The Queen signs the visitors' book at the Royal Gala concert
The Queen attended a gala evening to launch the centre three years ago

"I think it would be nothing short of a catastrophe if the centre wasn't allowed to achieve its full potential," Ms Lewis said.

Richard Hogger from arts organisation Creu Cymru said he believed the centre needed an increased subsidy to survive.

He said: "It's what it needs to be the flagship that the assembly want. However, if it's going to cause major suffering to the stability of the rest of the provision in Wales, then I think the Welsh assembly have to very seriously think about it."

The review was commissioned by the former Culture Minister Alun Pugh, and has been written by a team of experts in the field drawn from around the UK.

The report said the debt should be removed from WMC because it did not have the means of servicing or repaying it.

The venue, which was opened by the Queen in November 2004, is the home of Welsh National Opera, and hosts regular musicals, ballets and music and comedy events, while there is also a studio theatre.

Management on Friday announced it was to stage the touring production of Mary Poppins next March and April.



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