Anger at pounds 400,000 bonuses for Dome directors

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PETER MANDELSON is facing new allegations of "fat cat" salaries being paid to executives of the Millennium Dome after it emerged that three directors are likely to receive more than pounds 400,000 in bonuses.

The revelation will embarrass the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, and minister in charge of the dome project, who tomorrow goes to the TUC conference where union leaders have already denounced "greedy bastards" in Britain's boardrooms.

Jennie Page, the chief executive, could land a final payment of pounds 202,500, yet when her appointment was made last year, it was reported that she would receive a pounds 45,500 bonus and only if the dome opened on time.

Although the bonuses are performance-related, they depend mainly on completion of contract. Even if the exhibition does not open on time, the company's three executive directors could still get their money. Ms Page earns pounds 150,000 a year plus pension contributions and her contract runs for four and a half years from January 1997.

Liam Kane, the managing director, could receive up to pounds 90,000 in bonuses. He earns the same as Miss Page but his contract runs for just two years from April 1998. Steve Brown, the finance director, could receive pounds 138,000. He earns pounds 120,000 per year and his contract runs from September 1997 to June 2001.

Each will receive up to 30 per cent of their total earnings - up to pounds 430,000 in all. Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs have complained that the dome directors' bonuses, could be better spent elsewhere. More junior staff at the company will also receive bonuses if they complete their contracts, but their payments will be much smaller.

Norman Baker, the Liberal Democrat MP for Lewes, has written to Mr Mandelson to demand an explanation of the payments. Last night he accused the minister of bringing in "fat cat practices from the private sector". "What a shame the money could not be redirected to helping those in need rather than those who are already well off," he said. A Labour backbencher also expressed dismay over the payments. Gordon Prentice, the MP for Pendle who resigned as a Parliamentary aide last year over cuts in lone parents' benefits, described the payments as "astonishing".

A spokesman for the New Millennium Experience Company said:"Keeping staff until the end of their contracts is absolutely critical to the successful completion of the project. This bonus scheme will make serving out their contracts more attractive to them." A Conservative spokesman, the Christchurch MP Christopher Chope, said he did not think the payments were unreasonable.