Report claims £40m shortfall in Dome sponsorhip

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The Independent Online

A leaked report into the Dome's finances claims its sponsors have given the Millennium Experience £40m less than its operators and ministers have suggested.

A leaked report into the Dome's finances claims its sponsors have given the Millennium Experience £40m less than its operators and ministers have suggested.

The report, by investigators from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC), follows repeated statements by the Government and the New Millennium Experience Company that it has received £160m in commercial sponsorship from big British companies.

The PWC report, leaked yesterday, reveals the NMEC only expects to receive a total of £119m in cash and "value in kind" sponsorship.

The document also states the NMEC had been trading insolvently for weeks - until its directors called in the insolvency experts Simmons and Simmons on 22 August - which left its suppliers with unpaid bills of nearly £17m, dating back to February.

Last night, Peter Ainsworth, the Conservative spokesman, on culture, media and sport, demanded that the Department of Trade and Industry call in external, independent investigators to study the findings of the PWC report. He said: "It seems clear that it has been insolvent for most of the year and that the company hasn't been upfront about the true level of sponsorship."

An NMEC spokesman claimed the gap could be explained because Ford and British Telecom had spent £30m to £40m of their own money constructing their Journey and Talk zones, and that this sponsorship was not included in NMEC's accounts.

But he confirmed that similar "value in kind" sponsorship from McDonalds was added to the accounts. He said: "I can fully accept that it doesn't appear straightforward, but that's how it's done."

The PWC report also claims that McDonald's owes £2.4mbecause of a dispute over costs in erecting buildings on site, despite denials from NMEC officials earlier this month that any money was outstanding.

It also states that principal sponsors such as BSkyB, Tesco, British Airways, Roche and L'Oreal also owe £2.5m, of which £1.9m is expected to be paid in December as part of an agreed payment timetable.

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