TAXPAYERS in Southampton will have to stump up almost £2m to finish the city’s new arts complex.

The Daily Echo can reveal that the city council will have to pay £1.8m to finish the project - just a year after ploughing in £1.95m.

And it has also emerged that the new art facilities have been hit by delays, with the completion date pushed back from later this year to next spring or summer.

The extra funding comes at a time when the council is set to rubberstamp £8.6m of cuts with the loss of almost 150 jobs.

The £26.8m Studio 144 complex has been backed by the Arts Council and the University of Southampton, and will feature a 447-seat theatre, a gallery, a studio, rehearsal spaces, with facilities used by organisations such as City Eye, the John Hansard Gallery and the Nuffield Theatre.

The former Tyrrell and Green store site in Guildhall Square already boasts flats and bars, restaurants and cafes which have already opened.

There was controversy last year when it was revealed city taxpayers would have to fork out an extra £1.95m to finish the project due to rising costs.

And now the council will have to find an extra £1.8m after fundraising efforts failed to meet their £2.1m target.

The Southampton Cultural Development Trust, containing leading figures from the city’s cultural, business and public sectors, was set up to reach the £2.1m target for the complex, as well as raising funds for Sea City Museum.

In 2007 the then-Conservative administration agreed for the council to solely underwrite the fundraising target in the event that the trust was unable to meet the target.

And that now means that, as the trust has only secured £300,000 of funding, the council must meet the final £1.8m of costs to get the project over the line.

Of that, £1.55m will come from capital grants which could otherwise be spent on specific projects such as road improvements.

City council leader Simon Letts, below, said: “It’s not ideal.

“Effectively an unrealistic target set by another administration nine years ago has left us with a funding gap that we will have to fill if we are to finish the building.

“We’re obviously disappointed as we would have preferred to spend that money on other projects to benefit Southampton, but the council has agreed to underwrite the trust that was to raise that money, which has failed to raise it.”

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Conservative opposition leader Jeremy Moulton said he did not believe there had been an opportunity to jointly underwrite the agreement in 2007 alongside the university and the Arts Council, and therefore split the cost.

He added: “I think it’s disappointing that we haven’t really done anything for the last 12 months but that doesn’t mean that the door is shut, there is a great opportunity with it due for completion to re-energise this sponsorship opportunity and to rename it after an organisation or a donor, and that would create an opportunity to bring in some funds.”

He said that while there was no legal obligation on either the Arts Council or the university to help meet the extra costs, they should still be approached to see if they could contribute.

Independent councillor Andrew Pope, below, labelled it a “disastrous” project, saying: “No matter who is to blame, the Tories or Labour, as far as I’m concerned it’s a white elephant with public money being poured into it.

“This is another case of the council wasting millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money at the same time when services in Millbrook, Maybush and Redbridge are being cut.

“There is something seriously wrong with their priorities.”

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And Councillor Against the Cuts Keith Morrell added: “The new arts complex will be a great asset to the city, but it is costing far more than previous administrations had expected.

“This is trying to close the stable door after the horse has bolted, but in the future we will have to be far more scrupulous in forecasting the costs of projects.”

James Gough, from the trust, said: “The trust worked really hard with external fundraising experts to bring in funds from a number of trusts and other organisations, but we are still in an economic downturn and that additional funding proved to be more difficult in such a challenging economic timeframe.

“It is an incredibly exciting moment for Southampton culturally, this is going to be an iconic building in Southampton’s cultural landscape and will increase opportunities for people in the city to engage with art and culture and we should celebrate what a positive statement its opening is.”

A council spokesman said the delay to the opened was after the budget for the arts complex had increased from £25m to £26.8m “mainly as a result of cost increases in the construction industry at construction contract tender stage as the construction industry came out of recession as well as some delay to start on site of the Studio 144 fit out works”.