City ignores pounds 6m plea for Dome

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The Independent Online
SUPER-RICH CITY banks and financial institutions have not pledged a penny towards the cost of the Millennium Dome.

With less than 18 months to go until the Dome becomes the focus for a year of national celebrations, the Government is still looking for pounds 6m in City sponsorship to match the pounds 6m pledged by the Corporation of London. The money is needed to pay for the "Transaction Zone" in the Dome, a hi- tech exhibition which will explain the workings of the international financial markets.

But, despite several years of bumper City profits, a potentially huge public-relations opportunity and a 40 per cent tax-deductible sweetener, there has been a deafening silence from the City. A senior manager at a well-known stockbroking firm said: "There is just a total lack of interest. Nobody cares. There might also be some resistance to patronising a Labour government."

The largest bank in the world, Citibank, is building its new European headquarters at Canary Wharf, and it will have a grandstand view of the giant structure at Greenwich, on the opposite bank of the Thames. However, the company has dismissed requests for Dome sponsorship. A spokeswoman said: "We were approached but have decided not to contribute."

But last week the Corporation of London insisted it was confident that a major private sponsor would come forward. A spokeswoman said: "I can't tell you which company it is because there is so much money involved, but we are 100 per cent confident that we will raise the pounds 6m - no problem."

The Dome, the roof of which was completed ahead of schedule in June, is still well short of its private-sponsorship target of pounds 150m (out of the total bill of pounds 750m); pounds 87m has already been promised by companies including Tesco, BT, BSkyB and British Airways. Another pounds 13m has been agreed, but negotiations over the fine print continue.

In The New Millennium Experience Company's recent first annual report Jennifer Page, chief executive, warned: "Achieving the sponsorship and commercial income targets remains one of the most critical issues."

Indeed, the size of the Dome project has put off corporate sponsors, according to a Labour insider. He said: "The sums involved are so huge, it's making companies balk. It's a question of whether they can justify the expense in marketing terms."

But he added: "The Government is not worried. The Millennium Dome is going to happen whatever. If the corporate sponsorship turns out to be a few million short, Gordon Brown will just write a cheque for the difference. On 2 January 2000 no one will even remember."

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