The delayed Manchester factory arts project provides for a council loan of up to £ 45million as the budget increases further


Manchester’s flagship Arts Factory project is set to receive ANOTHER injection of funds from the council – as its budget increases by an additional £ 45million.

At least part of this gap is expected to be filled with a temporary loan from the town hall, although the council is adamant it will only be short-term financial support.

It is not expected to open until the end of 2022, more than three years late.

The project was unveiled by George Osborne six years ago as a historic new arts institution for the north and subsequently confirmed as the future home of the Manchester International Festival.

At the time, the government invested £ 78million in the program and the council provided additional funding of £ 21.6million, with fundraising and arts grants bringing the total budget to 110 million pounds sterling.

But since then the project has seen a series of hitches, including in 2017, when it appeared that the plans for the center orchestra pit were too small and the acoustics are not appropriate.

Drawings for the Factory, by the architects OMA

He also experienced a constant stream of financial problems, which led the council to plow first £ 19 million more in 2018, regular an additional £ 10million over the summer of this year.

These bailouts have been variously attributed to the cost of a unique and specialized design, on-site delays during the early stages of the pandemic, construction inflation, and the cost of removing utilities from a complex site.

But the last money – which the board insists would be “bridging” funding and not a permanent contribution – would see its initial financial support for the project more than quadruple, by $ 22 million. from pounds sterling to 96 million pounds sterling.

Overall, the project budget has now increased by more than two-thirds.

The latest loan is expected to be discussed largely privately by advisers next week, with the board citing commercial confidentiality.

It is understood that about half of the increase in the budget is due to delays related to Covid, which saw work slow down during the pandemic due to social distancing and staff issues.

Construction work on site in August

Manchester City Hall says Covid has had a “profound impact on cost and schedule” and is the “main reason” for the budget increase.

The council also highlights the “problems with the unprecedented nature of the building” due to “its scale, ambition and complexity” – as an additional factor, including the need for rigorous sound insulation in a building. residential area, although an exact breakdown of the increased costs has not been made public.

In addition, £ 10million of the sum is set aside for contingencies and may not need to be spent, he says.

The council is adamant that his own financial situation – which has been hit hard by the pandemic and is expected to trigger huge cuts next year – means he cannot afford to provide cash all the time. , it will therefore only be a temporary loan.

It indicates that “the majority” of financial support will then be recovered “through offers to domestic funding sources” and the remainder through increased fundraising.

The factory seen at night

The town hall also believes the project will be needed more than ever as the city seeks to emerge from the recession, as it expects the plant to provide 1,500 new jobs over the course of a decade and add 1.1 billion pounds to the economy during this period. .

Sir Richard Leese, Head of Manchester City Council, said: ‘The factory will not only be a premier performing arts space right here in Manchester – it will be one of the transformative projects fueling the city’s economic recovery. against the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

“It will create and support jobs, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors to the city each year, and provide a plethora of training and skills development opportunities for the people of Manchester to pursue a career in the creative sector.

“The factory will act as a key anchor institution for our recovering cultural sector and a major catalyst for continued investment and job creation in the booming neighborhood of St John’s.

Sir Richard Leese

“Offering something as unique and game-changing as The Factory is always going to involve unforeseen challenges, and as that unfolds, the global Covid-19 pandemic is pretty monumental.

“The severe financial consequences of the crisis mean that the council is not in a position to commit additional funding for this project but, as is the case in Manchester, we will be resourceful and find other ways to ensure to create something special.

“This is a project that will have enormous benefits for the city and its inhabitants. It is precisely because of these difficult times that it is even more important than ever to deliver it. Let’s be clear – we will not be increasing the council’s contribution to the final budget. ”

Tom Bloxham MBE, President of Manchester International Festival, said: “The Factory will have a major impact on the lives of the people of Manchester and will transform the cultural scene in the UK.

“As the Manchester International Festival has already shown, The Factory will also strengthen Manchester’s reputation as a cultural and creative center of international significance and as an important international destination, but like the MIF, it will be proudly rooted in our big city.

“The factory will play a key role in the lives of residents of Greater Manchester, building on MIF’s track record of working with communities, as a public and as participants, and providing jobs, skills, training and creative opportunities for local people and artists, as well as business benefits for Manchester businesses.

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