Arts lose out on lottery millions

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The Independent Online
Some of Britain's best-known arts organisations may not receive millions of pounds' worth of lottery money they had been promised.

In a potentially serious embarrassment for the Government, it now looks as if some of the "good causes" that have been publicly told they are to be rewarded with lottery funds may not receive the full awards, and may receive nothing.

The organisations include Sir Simon Rattle's City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Society, the Salisbury Playhouse, Cambridge Arts Theatre, Bolton Octagon, the Spacex art gallery in Exeter and Yorkshire Dance Centre in Leeds.

These and others were given lottery awards by the Arts Council after providing business and artistic plans showing that they were solvent, efficient and able to mount a certain number of concerts, productions or exhibitions, and would be able to pay staff to supervise their rebuilding projects.

But several have warned the Arts Council that they may not be able to fulfil all these criteria if they do not receive an increase in their annual revenue grant. Government projections are for a pounds 3m cut in funds for the Arts Council after the Budget this month.Some reports indicate that Virginia Bottomley, Secretary of State for National Heritage, may cut up to pounds 10m.

An Arts Council spokeswoman said yesterday: "It is true that if we do not receive an increase in annual grant from the Government, we cannot give our clients an increase in grant. It is also true that this will mean some clients will not be able to fulfil the criteria on which we awarded them lottery money, and some lottery projects could have to be curtailed, amended or abandoned.

"The Government cannot get off the hook by cutting annual arts revenue grants and saying everything is all right because of the lottery. The great good news of the lottery simply may not happen. This is because there will not be enough revenue money to sustain high-quality artistic activities once the projects are completed."

A senior Arts Council source confirmed last night that the organisations listed above "and many others" would need to be reassessed if there was a cut in government grant.

Despite the gimmick of handing over giant cheques to ecstatic recipients on the Saturday-night lottery television show, it does not in fact work this way at all. No money is given to the good causes until they have honoured their business and artistic plans and completed certain rebuilding work.

A spokesman at the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, which won a pounds 3.7m lottery award for new rehearsal studios, said he still expected to receive the money. But he admitted that a cut in annual grant would affect "the core activity, size and quality of our orchestra".

At the launch yesterday of the annual report of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, its chairman, Lord Rothschild, warned that the Government seemed to be going back on its promise not to reduce state heritage aid and grants when lottery funding arrived. Unless the process of public spending cuts was reversed, Lord Rothschild said, it would result in "a spectacular U-turn on everything the Government said when the lottery was launched".

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