Sheffield & South Yorkshire

Magna Science Adventure Centre finances 'fragile' say accountants

Magna Science Adventure Centre Image copyright M J Richardson
Image caption Magna opened on the former Templeborough steelworks in 2001

A struggling tourist attraction in South Yorkshire is "a fragile business and lacks financial resilience", a report from accountants warns.

Councillors in Rotherham have been told the Magna Science Adventure Centre, which owes the authority £440,000 in loans, cannot cover its running costs.

The report for the council by Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC) says cost-cutting and management changes have not altered the business.

Magna said it had "amazing potential".

In the detailed report obtained by BBC Radio Sheffield, councillors have been told "the balance sheet position is weak" and there is "a reducing level of unrestricted reserves and a reducing cash balance".

'Over optimistic'

The financial experts also said "one-off asset sales have been used as a way to generate cash to maintain liquidity".

Magna's income and expenditure performance had been "variable in recent years" but an improvement had been seen in 2014/15, the document reveals.

However, "some of the income forecast assumptions are considered over-optimistic, such as an annual 5% growth in leisure visitor numbers".

Rotherham Council said: "We are currently considering future options and will bring forward recommendations in due course, but are not in a position to comment further at this stage."

Image copyright Magna Science Adventure Centre
Image caption Price Waterhouse Coopers said assumptions of increasing visitor numbers were 'over optimistic'

Magna, which has not yet seen the report, said: "We continue to work closely with Rotherham Council over the future development of Magna and await the publication of its commissioned report, at which point we will review its findings and recommendations together.

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

Magna opened on the former Templeborough steelworks in 2001 and gets 120,000 visitors a year.

It is run by the Magna Trust, a registered charity which does not allow it to go overdrawn.

The council, which is a trust member, granted Magna a 15-year loan of £300,000 in 2006.

It has also provided an annual £250,000 loan facility since 2008 after the site suffered setbacks during the recession. The facility was temporarily increased by £100,000 in January to pay staff salaries.

A cabinet meeting in February deferred a decision to increase Magna's access to council cash to £350,000 a year pending a review of its business plan.

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