Page last updated at 14:27 GMT, Wednesday, 19 May 2010 15:27 UK

National Lottery to give more cash for arts and sport

Lottery draw machine
The new government wants to return the Lottery to its original purpose

Sport, the arts and heritage are to get more National Lottery funding, under plans announced by new Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

Less would go to the Big Lottery Fund, which supports other kinds of project.

Mr Hunt said he wanted the fund to focus on community and voluntary groups instead of being used by ministers as a "pot of money to dip into".

In his first speech in the role, he said he wanted to "get the Lottery back to how it was originally conceived".

Speaking at arts venue The Roundhouse, in North London, the Conservative frontbencher said he wanted the proportion of cash paid to the Big Lottery Fund to drop from 50% of lottery funding to 40%.

At the same time the 16.7% which currently goes to arts, heritage and sport would increase to 20%, under the proposed legislation, which would come into force after the 2012 Olympics.

Gift aid

He said arts and heritage would ultimately benefit by £50m a year each from changes to the share of cash allocated to them.

Changes would be done in stages with arts, heritage and sport receiving an increase to 18% in 2011-12 and then 20% the following year.

I am totally passionate about the arts and culture in this country
Jeremy Hunt, Culture Secretary

He said: "The lottery was set up to fund grassroots initiatives, not as a pot of money for ministers to dip into. At times like this it is even more important to the arts, heritage and sports sectors which is why I am wasting no time in making these changes.

"And, because I want to see a rise in the amount going to voluntary and community organisations, I will make sure that funds to that sector are protected with the Big Lottery fund focusing its support exclusively on that sector."

The Conservatives have long claimed money for the National Lottery's four "good causes" has been diverted to fund government priorities like health and education - something firmly denied by the previous Labour government which claimed the Tories wanted to cut aid for voluntary groups.

Mr Hunt also outlined plans to increase philanthropic giving to the arts through a shake-up of gift aid.

And he suggested a possible extension of the acceptance in lieu scheme, which allows people to offer items of cultural and historical importance to the State in full or part payment of their inheritance tax, capital transfer tax or estate duty.

'Civilised nation'

He also sought to reassure arts sponsors and donors that organisations could be given longer-term funding deals, amid concern that the arts will be in the firing line when the new government outlines plans to slash public spending.

In his speech, Mr Hunt said he wanted to see a mixed economy of public and private support for the arts.

He also vowed to keep free admission to national museums and galleries - and said access to high quality arts for as many people as possible would underpin future policy and there would be no politicisation of funding decisions.

The new culture secretary said: "I am totally passionate about the arts and culture in this country.

"For me culture is not just about the jobs in the creative industries, not just about its economic impact, and not just about the thing that's enjoyed by the millions who go to the cinema, theatre and concerts every week, or visit our museums and galleries.

"Rather, it's what defines us as a civilised nation. It helps us understand the world around us, explain it and sometimes escape from it - and we are all the better for it."

There will be a three month consultation on the proposed changes in the way Lottery cash is handed out, which need to be approved by the House of Commons and the House of Lords.

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