A LOAN and rate relief package has been agreed to stop Ski Rossendale ending up on 'a slippery slope to failure'.

The scheme was approved by Rossendale borough's cabinet after officers warned in a confidential report the business, which attracts more than 30,000 visitors a year, was at risk of closure without cash help.

The package comprises a £28,900 extra loan, on top of an existing one of £92,000, none of which has yet been paid, and further business rate reduction of £16,400 a year.

Cllr James Eaton, Conservative representative for Greensclough ward, said: "It seems to me that Ski Rossendale is on the slippery slope to failure.

"The council is throwing good money after bad."

But Rossendale Council's Labour leader rejected the allegations and said: "This a small extra loan to help keep the slope on track for future success.

"It is an iconic visitor attraction and important part of the borough.

"When we transferred the management of it to Ski Rossendale Ltd in September 2011, we never said we would wash out hands of it.

"It is undergoing a major upgrade with a £440,000 Sport England grant to prepare it for the future and we are supporting that project."

Dave Fuller, one of Ski Rossendale Ltd's four directors, said: "We are delighted and grateful to the council for this loan.

"When we took the slope over in 2011 to reopen it, it seemed derelict.

"We are in the middle of a 10-year project with a Sport England grant that will see the joint beginners/improvers slope refurbished and a new customer centre with hire shop, clubhouse and new cafe built.

"We now hope to see revenue and visitor number rise by 20 per cent."

Ski Rossendale also has a main slope for skiers which will be replaced over the next 10 to 30 years at a cost of £750,000.

The confidential report said the not-for-profit company had made 'five years of consecutive losses', had £160,000 of outstanding directors. loans, and a £92,000 loan to Rossendale Council with repayments due to start next month.

It said that while Ski Rossendale had confirmed it could make repayments on the existing loan on schedule, its directors were unwilling to increase their personal debts above the £200,000 mark.

It also urges a series of management changes overseen by the Rossendale Leisure Trust and Growth Lancashire (a business development company owned several county local authorities).

It links the loan and rate relief package to a new project board with members of Growth Lancashire, Ski Rossendale Directors, the council and the leisure trust to meet monthly.

The report warns of the company's directors' 'unwillingness to continue to offer any further directors' loans above the £200,000 mark which will result in the closure of the business'.

The document includes: "As it stands, without the backing of the directors by annual cash injections, Ski Rossendale is not a going concern as a company.

"That cash backing on current performance will end in circa 12 months if £200,000 is to be the directors' maximum exposure.

"Any future turnaround plan is likely to involve investment."

The report issues a further warning: "There is a risk that relationships with Ski Rossendale could break down and these measures are not fully-implemented resulting in continued losses making RBC loan repayments unrealistic."

Cllr Eaton said: "I am very concerned about the council's money in this.

"We all want Ski Rossendale to be a success, but they already have a council loan of which nothing has been repaid.

"In view of this report, I am worried the business will not continue to be viable and we may never get the money back.

"I thought that the 2011 transfer to the company was the end of council cash being pumped into the Ski Rossendale.

"In the current financial climate, it seems a waste of council tax payers money."

Cllr Barnes said: "This is not a bale out.

"There is no way Ski Rossendale is on a slippery slope to failure. It is about ensuring it can achieve what we want it to for the area."

The report also reveals Ski Rossendale is seeking a further £15,000 from Sport England on top of the £440,000 grant, while free business support from Growth Lancashire will be worth £5,600 of public money.

It also considers Rossendale Leisure Trust providing £24,700 of free management support and staff time and a possible longer term 'arms length' relationship between the two.