Reaching Communities, the Big Lottery Fund's 'demand-led' programme for local community projects, to be launched next month, will total £100m in its first year.
The fund is the nearest equivalent to the old Community Fund, with its focus on helping disadvantaged groups.
According to Stephen Dunmore, the chief executive of the Big Lottery Fund, the size of the fund will be reviewed in its second and third years, depending on the demand.
Luke FitzHerbert, senior researcher at the Directory of Social Change and a lottery expert, said the funding was "nearer the bottom end of expectations.
Comparable 'England' programmes in the last full year of the Community Fund totalled £182m."
But Dunmore said the comparison was not valid. "All along, our undertaking has been that at least one-third of our money to the voluntary sector would flow through demand-led, lightly prescribed funding streams," he said. "That never presupposed a single programme to do that."
Dunmore said that other ring-fenced programmes, such as the children's fund and the community buildings stream, contained strong demand-led elements for the voluntary sector, which the fund defines as "projects identifying need and offering solutions to local needs and issues".
FitzHerbert claimed that ring-fencing meant that programmes were "tightly prescribed" rather than genuinely demand-led.
But Dunmore said ring-fencing was no different from the Community Fund's insistence that 90 per cent of its grants would conform to six priority areas. "All the things we are ring-fencing are things that were funded by the Community Fund in any case," he said.
FitzHerbert said there was also an issue about the Big Lottery Fund's intention to support 'national' organisations spanning England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, rather than UK-wide bodies.
"We shouldn't have to reorganise our national charities because the fund cannot find its way round these problems," he said.
- See Letters, page 25.