LIE NO. 1: Lord Falconer said yesterday on the Radio 4 Today Programme: "Greenwich Council estimate that 30,000 new jobs will be created in the next seven years as a result of the project".
REALITY: An independent study for the council, the NMEC and English Partnerships, the Government body who owns the land on which the Dome stands, said 30,000 jobs should be created in the borough as the result of at least half a dozen developments, of which the Dome is only one. The figure includes jobs to come from the redevelopment of Greenwich and Woolwich Town Centres and the Royal Arsenal, as well as the Dome. In any case the figure includes predicted jobs on sites even where there are no definite plans for redevelopment. The researchers have simply assumed development will come, and with it jobs.
LIE NO. 2: Lord Falconer called Greenwich "one of the poorest parts" of the country.
REALITY: According to the official index of deprivation, published by the Government earlier this summer, out of 355 councils in England, Greenwich is ranked 46th poorest in terms of unemployment and 42nd poorest measured by the poverty of its residents. In other words it is not even in the bottom 10% of deprived council areas. With an unemployment rate of 6.8%, Greenwich is better off than many other parts of London. Neighbouring Lewisham has a jobless rate of 7.7% and the average for Inner London boroughs is 7.3%. Across the river, Hackney in the East End has an unemployment rate of a staggering 21.5%.
LIE NO. 3: Lord Falconer said, "Something in the excess of £500 million of lottery money has gone in. As a result, something in excess of £1 billion of private sector money is going to go into that part of the country".
REALITY: Lord Falconer's claims appeared to collapse last night when officials at the Cabinet Office were challenged over the figures. They were initially unable to give details of how this figure was arrived at and referred inquiries to English Partnerships. Staff there said they could not give the source of Lord Falconer's billion. But they said alongside the Dome were being built a new Sainsbury's store, a cinema, a hotel and other shops as well as a 3,000-home Millennium Village. Added together the private investment in those schemes probably came to around £1 billion. A Cabinet Office spokesman then claimed £800 million would come from the site's buyers Nomura and another £200 million from the Millennium Commission. In fact the Commission only distributed funds from the National Lottery, and Nomura confirmed last night that it planned only to invest around £400 million in and around the Dome. The spokesman later said Lord Falconer may have been "confused" and included public investment in his claim about private sector investment.
LIE NO. 4: Lord Falconer also described the Dome as "the UK's number one visitor attraction".
REALITY: Yesterday it became clear even that claim, repeated time and again by the Dome's defenders, was blatantly misleading, since it excludes the vastly popular Blackpool Pleasure Beach on a spurious technicality. The Dome now expects to attract only 4.5 million paying customers throughout the year, with free visits bringing the total to nearer 7 million. Last year Blackpool Pleasure Beach attracted 7.2 million. Dome chiefs chose to ignore that fact claiming it is not a "like with like" comparison because Blackpool holidaymakers pay for individual rides rather than one entrance fee. The British Museum and the National Gallery - both free attractions - also lured more visitors last year than the Dome's projected ticket sales this year, with 5,460,537 and 4,900,000 respectively. The Dome has increasingly had to resort to more and more discount deals to tempt punters to make the journey to Greenwich. As a result, during certain months when offers apply, more than half of all paying visitors take advantage of cheap tickets. While a full-price adult ticket costs £20, the average paying visitor hands over less than £12.
LIE NO. 5: NMEC chief Pierre-Yves Gerbeau said on BBC Breakfast With Frost on March 12: "On a financial point of view, you saying 10 million paying visitors, I'm going to make us break even so this is the target, we hope we're going to do better". Asked if this meant achieving the 10 million target, an average gate of 27,000 a day: "Yes, absolutely". On June 7th he said, "We are not going to ask for more money. We are going to deal with it. By immense efforts and cost savings, we are going to be OK".
REALITY: In August, always reckoned as the peak visitor month, the Dome achieved 17,000 visitors a day. M Gerbeau asked for more money in August - and was given £43 million. This week he received £47 million.
LIE NO. 6: On a BBC website on January 23rd last year, Lord Falconer said "It's going to bring half a billion to £1 billion extra of tourism to Great Britain during the year 2000. I can tell you that so far it has been within budget and on timetable all the way along"
REALITY: No one now claims that the Dome is attracting worthwhile numbers of foreign visitors to Britain. Lord Falconer could not have known the Dome was on budget because, as new NMEC boss David James revealed yesterday, it was keeping no full record of assets and contracts.
LIE NO. 7: Peter Mandelson told the Commons on November 10, 1997: "The estimate of 12 million visits to the millennium experience is based on industry projections and poll findings. I do not believe that there will be any shortage of visitors to the millennium experience". He added: "Our single most important objective is to ensure that when people come to Greenwich they have a once-in-a-lifetime experience, without delay or frustration in travelling to and moving around the Millennium Dome. That is why the New Millennium Experience Company has developed an operational plan that will guarantee access to the attractions in the dome, ensure minimal queuing for attractions".
REALITY: The polls and estimates were wrong. When large crowds turned up at the Dome in its early days in January they found themselves trapped in queues up to two hours long for the most popular attractions.
LIE NO. 8: Tony Blair said on a tour of the Dome on December 14 last year: "The Dome is on budget and on time and not a penny of taxpayers' money has been spent on it. Once people see it, they will flood to visit it and be a part of a great British achievement".
REALITY: The Dome's finances have been shown to be chaotic, with no records kept of what it was spending and what it owed. No claim that it was on budget could ever have been justified. The Dome has so far taken £628 million of public good cause money from the lottery.
LIE NO. 9: Michael Heseltine, a Tory member of the Millennium Commission, told the Commons on January 28, 1998: "The country will gain far more in revenue than the cost of the festival". On the same date he also said: "I personally believe that, if anything, more people will come than we have envisaged".
REALITY: The claim that the Dome will generate a profit for Britain can now be seen to be ludicrous. Mr Heseltine's confidence in its pulling power was misplaced.
LIE NO. 10: Culture Secretary Chris Smith said on New Year's Eve: "Everyone up to the moment of opening says 'This is a waste of money, should we be doing this?' and of course, when it opens everyone suddenly says 'This is rather special, we want to go and see it',"
REALITY: In the case of the Dome, a lukewarm early reception and dismal word of mouth only depressed visitor numbers.back
The Dome. One Amazing Day. One Year Only. Thank God.