Culture minister James Purnell made the long-awaited promise in a Commons debate last night, shortly before the Government won its motion to transfer a total of £1.085bn from the lottery to fund the 2012 Olympics. He also promised to honour the Big Lottery Fund’s commitment that at least £2bn would be available for charities over the next five years
The NCVO, the Voluntary Arts Network, Heritage Link and the Central Council for Physical Recreation, which had campaigned on the issue, each received a phone call from the minister on Monday evening to confirm the Government’s promise that the lottery would not be asked to divert further funds.
Sector claims campaign victory
Robin Simpson, chief executive of the Voluntary Arts Network, said that the assurance represented “an important step” in terms of the Government listening to the voluntary arts, sports and heritage sectors. “This commitment is a direct result of the meetings we had with the Secretary of State last week,” Simpson said.
Stuart Etherington, chief executive of the NCVO, said the sector should be proud of the campaign it had run over the past year to ensure that no further lottery raids would take place.
“We remain concerned about the continuing diversion of good cause funds, but the minister’s announcement means we have a firm commitment that will ensure lottery funding is protected,” he said. “We will hold ministers to this undertaking and continue to press them to find ways of refunding lottery good causes.”
The NCVO has written to both James Purnell and Tessa Jowell, the minister for the Olympics, welcoming the commitment and advising them that the umbrella body will continue to monitor the funding situation very closely.
More work to mitigate losses
Anthea Case, chairman of Heritage Link, the umbrella body for heritage groups, said: “Our alliance with arts and sports voluntary bodies demonstrates that together we are stronger. To have got this assurance is excellent, but we should all keep on pressing for ways to mitigate the undoubted effect this raid is going to have on our members' activities and especially on their enthusiasm for getting involved in the Cultural Olympiad.”
Brigid Simmonds, chairman of the Central Council for Physical Recreation, said she was delighted to have persuaded ministers of the sector’s case.
“Although the Olympics is a sporting event, further diversions of lottery funding would have cut even deeper into community sport provision, and that would have really endangered any sporting legacy from the games,” she said.