Troubled Magna to ask council for another loan

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The Magna Science Adventure Centre will find out on Wednesday if they are to receive cash help from Rotherham Borough Council after another difficult financial year.

Bosses of the struggling centre are expected to ask for more money to keep the attraction running after the Magna Trust reported losses of £1.2 million in the last financial year.

Rotherham Council’s cabinet will meet on Wednesday morning to discuss the loan request.

It’s not the first time that Magna has been in financial trouble. Back in 2009, the council approved a £200,000 loan to the charity, and a loan was also approved last year.

Since 2008, visitor numbers have fallen by around ten per cent, and in their 2012 financial statement, the Magna Trust said the uncertainty around future cash flow cast “significant doubt” on the charity’s ability to continue as a going concern.

Councillor Christopher Middleton (Sitwell, Conservative) said he was not in favour of the council propping up Magna, which as well as being a visitor attraction for children also hosts business conferences and weddings.

“The last financial request that they’re about to make give us some cause for concern,” he said.

“Magna is a very considerable resource for the town but it is no good if it can’t wash its own face, and if it’s going to keep coming back to the council for more money then clearly it’s doing something wrong.

“After this number one years it should be at least breaking even. I would not expect it to make an enormous profit but it should be at least breaking even, and it isn’t.

“We have to ask whether we can afford to be a constant drain on the council tax payers of Rotherham.”

Janet Lister, chairman of Magna Trust, said: “The first thing to make clear is that the future of Magna Science Adventure Centre is secure and the board are working hard to grow the business. In fact we are about to appoint a new general manager.

“But like many places we have been hit by the economic downturn, which has led to a fall in visitor numbers and corporate bookings.

“We have asked in principle for a loan from Rotherham Council, which, if we get it, would be paid back over one year.

“Magna has had loans from Rotherham Council before and these have always been paid back on time and in full, with interest.

“Magna continues to offer a great day out for all the family, with a full programme of events planned for the Easter and summer holidays, and is a versatile venue for corporate bookings.”