Charities at odds over Olympics funding

Community organisations have welcomed the Government's assurances that the voluntary and community sector will not suffer from the rising cost of staging the 2012 Olympics.

However, heritage organisations have condemned moves to divert heritage funding.

Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell told the House of Commons last week that some funds will be diverted from the Big Lottery Fund to the Olympic budget, which has risen from the initial estimate of £2.4bn to £9.3bn. However, she pledged that the proportion of Big Lottery Fund money earmarked for the voluntary sector would remain untouched.

After the speech Third sector minister Ed Miliband said: "The government recognises the need for stable funding for the sector, and today's decisions reflect our determination to achieve that."

The Community Alliance, a partnership between Bassac, Community Matters, the Development Trusts Association and the Scarman Trust, welcomed the announcement. Programme director Bec Clarkson said: "It is particularly heartening to know that the voice of the voluntary and community sector is heard at this level and even more importantly acted upon.

"Bassac chief executive Ben Hughes agreed: "This is a positive and exciting decision that serves to genuinely reinforce the Office of the Third Sector's commitment to strengthening the voluntary and community sector."

However, heritage charities' umbrella group Heritage Link condemned the government's decision to divert a further £90m from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The fund's budget is already scheduled to drop from its current £290m per year to £180m after 2008.

The group complained that the move contradicts recent Government statements about the importance of heritage. Acting chairman John Sell said: "We are concerned that heritage, which is the key driver for tourism in Britain, will not be up to scratch in time for the Olympics and will affect the all-important tourism legacy expected to bring over £2bn to the visitor economy during and after the games."

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