The lunacy of throwing yet more money at the Dome

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The Independent Online

Truly, it seems that absolute lunacy has taken hold. The decision yesterday by the Millennium Commission to grant another £47m to the ailing monster that is the Millennium Dome makes it clear that a firm rule has been agreed by the millennial bureaucrats. When in a hole, keep digging. Then dig some more; and some more. The £760m Dome started life with £400m of lottery money from the Millennium Commission. That was followed by another £60m. And then, as things went from bad to worse, five months after the grand opening it received another £29m - with "stringent conditions" attached.

Truly, it seems that absolute lunacy has taken hold. The decision yesterday by the Millennium Commission to grant another £47m to the ailing monster that is the Millennium Dome makes it clear that a firm rule has been agreed by the millennial bureaucrats. When in a hole, keep digging. Then dig some more; and some more. The £760m Dome started life with £400m of lottery money from the Millennium Commission. That was followed by another £60m. And then, as things went from bad to worse, five months after the grand opening it received another £29m - with "stringent conditions" attached.

In some ways, it is reminiscent of the worst days of the car manufacturer British Leyland, when untold millions were poured into an industry unable to stand on its own feet. The main difference, however, is that this crisis does not have thousands of jobs at stake, let alone the economic wellbeing of the nation. The Dome's boss, Pierre-Yves Gerbeau, has continued to bleat about the Dome's alleged success, saying the only problem is with the media whingers who refuse to acknowledge the discreet charm of the Dome. Yes, Pierre-Yves. Quite. Keep taking the tablets.

It is truly bizarre that the Millennium Commission can persuade itself that this orgy of spending - where the real cost per visitor looks set to come in at around £125 a head - can somehow be regarded as more worthy than other potential millennium projects that would have been happy to receive funds for the long-term good of the community.

Increasingly, we are faced with heavy-duty blackmail, where the embarrassment caused by an early closure of the Dome is portrayed as worse than the granting of mere cash. Because of the involvement of both the previous and the present governments in the project - Messrs Heseltine and Mandelson, take a bow - there has been a cosy reluctance to admit the fiasco that this has become.

Finally, however, enough must be enough. Otherwise, the downward spiral will simply get worse.

The agreed £106m sell-off to the Japanese finance company Nomura (with £43m going to prop up the Dome) was supposed to allow the Dome to limp on until year-end before a final burial. If the Dome's terminal sickness is such that even that was not possible, then a quick ending should have been found - a dose of political hara-kiri. The Dome should have been handed over, the humiliation accepted. Yesterday's decision is madness and cowardice combined.

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