Robert Halfon, the Cabinet Office minister without portfolio, has refused to confirm or deny whether the Chancellor plans to cut £320m a year from the Big Lottery Fund’s budget in the Comprehensive Spending Review tomorrow.
Halfon represented the government at a Westminster Hall debate this afternoon, called by Naz Shah, the Labour MP for Bradford West, following reports that the government planned to cut the money from the National Lottery that goes to good causes through the BLF.
The reports, made by a group calling itself Save Big Lottery, appeared on a blog earlier this month and claim that in tomorrow’s review £320m of the BLF’s annual budget will be redirected to the funds for sports, arts and heritage to compensate for funding cuts at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
If it goes ahead, the cut would represent a 48 per cent drop in funding for the BLF compared with last year.
Halfon told MPs at the debate: "I have to confess that I have not seen inside the Chancellor’s lunchbox. All I ask of my honourable friends and the honourable members is to wait 24 hours and let’s wait and see what happens – I cannot comment on funding in particular because of the spending review."
When pressed by Anna Turley, the shadow minister for civil society, for more details, he said: "I suggest the honourable lady holds her horses."
Turley told Third Sector afterwards she was disappointed by the minister’s response.
"I understand the position he’s in ahead of the review, but I feel he could have said something to allay our fears if it’s not going to happen," she said.
In her speech during the debate, Turley said: "If it is true that the Chancellor intends to take about £320m from the Big Lottery Fund and redirect it to DCMS spending on arts and sports, it is a shameful act of misappropriation.
"The Chancellor should not be raiding the people's lottery to plug gaps in his departmental spending to try to compensate from the total failure of his long- term plan."
She warned the potential cut would "hit the smallest charities doing the most important work in the most deprived areas...I urge the minister to ask his friend the Chancellor to think again".