Friday, January 30, 2015

News: Magna "has amazing potential"

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The management at Rotherham's Magna Science and Adventure Centre are confident that they can cut the need to borrow money from the local council and have exciting projects in the pipeline for increased income.

Rothbiz was first with the news yesterday that Rotherham Council's cabinet is being asked to approve further financial support, making loans of up to £350,000 available for the next financial year, but only if Magna can develop and demonstrate that they have a sustainable business model for the facility.

The authority has already agreed an additional emergency loan of £100,000 this month to help the venue cover essential immediate running costs – approved under the Interim Chief Executive's delegated powers. A fire at adjacent premises in December meant that some Christmas parties had to be cancelled.

Under the terms of that loan, the Council must agree each item to be paid for with the money. Any further support will be contingent on an external review.

Potential income opportunities that would reduce Magna's reliance on the Council are set to be discussed by the Council's cabinet in a private session next week, where members are being asked to consider whether to continue to provide a £250,000 annual loan as the authority has done each year since 2012.

John Silker, chief executive of Magna Trust, said: "We appreciate this financial backing and support from Rotherham Council.

"Unlike many other visitor attractions, galleries and museums we do not receive grants which we can keep. Instead we pay back money we borrow at commercial rates of interest.

"Since I took over at Magna the plan has been to cut our need to borrow money. We are confident that we will be able to do that in the near future.

"We have a robust business plan in place and lots of plans for developments and increased income.

"We have already seen some massive improvements, such as turnover on the corporate and events side of the business increasing from £730,000 to more than £1million this year.

"And the future is looking very positive, with several exciting projects in the pipeline, which could transform Magna, create new jobs and bring further investment into the area.

"As well as being a versatile venue for corporate and leisure bookings, Magna continues to offer a great day out for all the family, with nearly 100,000 people enjoying the visitor attraction each year. It is also a valuable educational resource, with more than 26,000 pupils coming on school visits.

"Magna is very much part of the heritage of the area and has amazing potential to be so much more."

Cllr Emma Hoddinott, deputy leader of Rotherham Council, added: "As one of the three equal shareholders, the Council has provided significant support to Magna in the past. Magna has loans outstanding to the Council of more than half a million pounds and has not been able to reduce the debt it owes to the Council since the end of March last year.

"Over Christmas, Magna approached the Council to seek further urgent assistance in order to meet a short term cash flow shortfall, and this finance was made available under strict new conditions.

"We are conscious that there are more than 80 people employed by the trust, whose jobs would have been in immediate doubt had provision not been made available. However, we are working closely with Magna on their business plan to assess their future viability."

Magna website

Images: Magna

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