Charity coalition rallies opposition MPs against Lottery raid to fund the Olympics

A coalition of arts, sports and heritage organisations is seeking the backing of opposition MPs in a campaign against the Government's intention to cut National Lottery funding to help pay for the 2012 Olympics.

The Voluntary Arts Network, Heritage Link and CCPR, an alliance of sport governing and representative bodies, are working with the NCVO to protest against the raids on arts, sport and heritage lottery distributors announced by culture secretary Tessa Jowell in March.

The organisations will be writing to opposition MPs this week in the hope of enlisting their support in the parliamentary vote on the Government's plans. The coalition is calling for the vote to take place on the floor of the House of Commons instead of in committee. The date for the vote has yet to be set.

Under the plan the Arts Council of England, which gave 55 per cent of its awards to voluntary groups in 2005/06, will lose £62m over four years. The Heritage Lottery Fund, which gave 60 per cent of its awards to charities, will lose £90m, while Sport England, which gives 30 per cent, will lose £55m. According to the coalition, that adds up to a total loss to charities of over £100m.

Heritage Link chief executive Kate Pugh said her organisation was "finding it difficult to maintain" its enthusiasm for the Olympics in the face of the cuts. "This is an issue that merits wider discussion, which is why it is more appropriate for it to be debated in the House of Commons as opposed to in committee," she said.

She criticised Tessa Jowell for encouraging voluntary organisations to view the funding cuts as a loan to the Olympics, which will be paid back through the increase in the values of Olympic land as a result of the games. She said the money should be repaid even if the land's value has not risen when it is sold off.

The Government also announced in March that the Big Lottery Fund, which provides grants directly to the voluntary sector, would be left untouched. NCVO chief executive Stuart Etherington welcomed that commitment, but said arts, heritage and sport groups should have been offered similar protection. He said: "I hope that the wider voluntary and community sector will support sports, arts and heritage organisations in this campaign."

An NCVO spokesman said the umbrella group have been working with arts, sport and heritage groups ever since the announcement f the decision. He said Etherington had been asking for a meeting with ministers since March, but had not yet received a response.

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