Millions wasted by Arts Council: The Big Spenders

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The Independent Online
Royal Opera House

Project: To extend and refurbish the Grade I listed building in Covent Garden.

Cost: pounds 214m, with pounds 78m from Arts Council lottery funds.

What went wrong: By June 1997 the ROH was pounds 4.7m in debt and projecting losses of pounds 2m a year in the new premises. It gave no details of how it would raise its pounds 136m share of the cash. Its new plan for viability only emerged after pounds 65m of the grant had been paid.

Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (Rada)

Project: Purchase and refurbish two London sites and refurbish existing ones.

Cost: pounds 32.4m, with pounds 23.7m from the Arts Council.

What went wrong: Rada sought extra cash because of unforeseen costs and a decision to build media facilities. The project is likely to be at least 12 months late and 5 per cent over budget. The report says the new premises will increase Rada's running costs.

Cambridge Arts Theatre

Project: Refurbishment of Arts Theatre and Festival Theatre and rebuilding of the old Arts Cinema.

Cost: pounds 12.6m with pounds 7.3m from the Arts Council

What went wrong: The parlous financial state of the Cambridge Arts Theatre Trust was not detected when the grant was made. The theatre was almost insolvent shortly after the work was completed. The Arts Council had to sell the new Festival Theatre and Arts Cinema to stop it going under.

Sadler's Wells Theatre

Project: Rebuild theatre.

Cost: pounds 52m with pounds 36m from the Arts Council.

What went wrong: Extra costs. Sadler's Wells asked for another pounds 6m. It signed a contract to house the Royal Opera and Royal Ballet. Without those contracts the theatre would go under. Sadler's Wells has still only raised pounds 6m of pounds 16m it was required to raise. The main theatre is completed but the rest of the building will be finished when funds become available.

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