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Council pays £1.3m to Eden

By Cornish Guardian  |  Posted: January 01, 2014

ROBUST DEFENCE:  Eden has denied being reliant on council funding.

ROBUST DEFENCE: Eden has denied being reliant on council funding.

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MORE than £1m of taxpayers' cash has been given to the Eden Project by Cornwall Council over the past three years.

Council figures show it spent around £1.3 million on the Eden Project over three and a half years, but some of the payments have been left off its "transparency report", which identifies public spending.

However, Eden has insisted it is "absolutely not reliant on grants to sustain its operations in Cornwall".

According to data obtained under the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act, the council paid out £345,000 in direct funding, as well as contributing £815,108 via "third parties" and a further £194,833 for the "everyday business" of the attraction.

In a statement, it said: "Following investigation, it would seem that three payments (totalling £205,000) were incorrectly posted in the accounts which led to them not being picked up in the report that populates the transparency report.

"During this period the council was moving to a new financial management system, which may have caused this error, for which we apologise.

"However, although the three payments were not included in the transparency report, they would have been open to public inspection during the statutory 20-day period after the close of each year's accounts."

The award-winning attraction was forced to shed around 60 jobs in the past year.

An Eden spokesman said it had generated more than £1 billion for the wider Cornish economy and been credited with creating 2,000 jobs elsewhere.

"It is correct that, since 2009, Eden has received £345,000 of grants directly from Cornwall Council to support the creation of new projects," he said.

"We are grateful for this investment at a crucial time in our development but it would be fundamentally wrong to suggest Eden is dependent on local authority funding."

To "correct misconceptions", Eden listed the six payments it had received from the council since 2009:

£200,000 for services provided to the council;

£350,000 of direct grants, principally for Cornwall Together (the energy-switching initiative run in 2012 and 2013) and development of the HOW2 project (a major project to build "educational capital");

£400,000 received via the council from the Department for Work and Pensions for training and job creation;

£150,000 received via the council for the CHEOPS Programme (Skills for Climate Change – Excellence in Leadership, Procurement and Supply);

£200,000 received via the council for Eden's role within the St Austell Town Centre development.

The spokesman said the last three sums listed all related to wider initiatives in which Eden had participated alongside other businesses: "It would be incorrect to view these as funding by Cornwall Council, which acted as a conduit for funds from elsewhere."

He blamed dwindling visitor numbers on the impact of the London Olympics, poor weather and the recession, but said Eden had undergone significant staff and financial restructuring in the past year. "As a result, Eden is absolutely not reliant on grants to sustain its operations in Cornwall. Any grants received are used for specific projects and the costs associated with them," he said.

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