Dome inquiries to look at funding

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Indy Politics

Two hard-hitting inquiries into the Dome by the Government's public-spending watchdog are set to lead to further embarrassment for ministers.

The National Audit Office is preparing to publish an official inquiry into the winding up of the Dome, following its disastrous year of operation in 2000 and the subsequent year of embarrassing obsolescence.

It will look into whether public money was used properly in sending the Greenwich attraction into solvent liquidation.

Although David James, who was parachuted in by the Government to try to ensure that the Dome did not lose further cash, is expected to be praised for his performance, the report is likely to raise further questions over the way the project was funded.

Mr James is expected to return around £20m to the public purse following the closing of the Dome's books.

The first NAO report, to be published in March, will be followed by another inquiry into the sale of the Dome. This second investigation will focus on the deal with developers that saw the Dome signed over with no cash paid up front, but the promise that a share of any future profits would be handed back to the Government.

The international consortium which "bought" it plans to turn the venue into a 20,000-seater sports and concert stadium. Opposition MPs were dismayed that the Government would not see any cash from the profit-sharing deal until the end of 2004 and that one of Britain's most valuable real-estate sites had been handed over without immediately returning a penny to public coffers.

The Dome has drained £628m from National Lottery funds since it opened in 2000. It will be handed to the Meridian Delta consortium on a 999-year lease. The consortium will then make phased payments to the Government for rest of the 189-acre Greenwich site.

Ministers have been anxious to off-load the former attraction since two deals to sell it to private firms fell through.

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