The government must not abandon a promise to put all lottery good cause money into the voluntary sector, Kevin Curley, chief executive of the local infrastructure body Navca, has warned.
In a letter to Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office minister, Curley said proposed new policy directions that govern the lottery, being consulted on until 18 November, promise only that Big Lottery funding would go "primarily" to the voluntary sector, whereas previous government documents have promised that all funding would go the sector.
"If the consultation document is implemented as policy, this would be a policy U-turn resulting in millions of pounds less for charities and community groups every year," Curley wrote. "It would be a devastating setback for the big society."
Curley said a year ago the government had reduced the share of good cause money going to the Big Lottery Fund from 50 per cent to 40 per cent, but had promised that charities would not lose out because 100 per cent of Big Lottery Fund spend would be in the voluntary sector.
A spokeswoman for the Cabinet Office said that the use of the word "primarily" in the consultation document was because the Big Lottery Fund is for the whole of the UK, and the devolved administrations could make their own decisions.
She said the part of the policy that referred to England said lottery money would be "distributed to projects that benefit local people and local communities served by the voluntary and community sector. This meant that in England and the Isle of Man, all of the money from the Big Lottery Fund would go to the voluntary sector.
"There has been no policy change," she said.
However, a Navca spokesman said this wording was not sufficiently clear to guarantee that all lottery money would continue to go to the voluntary and community sector.