Conservatives pledge £150m fund to buy new artworks for museums and galleries

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A new Conservative government would set up a £150m fund to help museums and galleries buy new works of art and would give £5m a year towards preserving British heritage overseas.

A new Conservative government would set up a £150m fund to help museums and galleries buy new works of art and would give £5m a year towards preserving British heritage overseas.

The Tories claim a total of £4bn extra could be provided for arts and heritage over seven years by abolishing the Big Lottery Fund, one of the current lottery distributors, although some experts query that figure.

In a culture manifesto entitled Action on Arts Heritage, the Conservatives pledge to put a greater emphasis on the cultural value of the arts and support them by drastically cutting bureaucracy at the Arts Council and the Department for Culture.

After the arts community expressed some concern that Labour was failing to maintain real increases in arts spending, John Whittingdale, the shadow Culture Secretary, said the sector had the right to feel let down.

"The next Conservative government will recognise the value of the arts, heritage and creative industries for themselves, not as tools of social engineering. By returning the National Lottery to its original purposes, we will release significant extra resources to benefit the cultural life of the UK."

The £150m National Acquisitions Fund would be funded from the lottery and would distribute money from the annual invested income. The Overseas Heritage Fund would help support what the Tories described as "neglected but important relics of our great history" such as the outposts of the polar explorers Scott and Shackleton and war graves in Afghanistan.

The Conservative pledges were largely short on costed detail. But they did include a commitment to support museums that wanted free admission while allowing institutions that felt it was in their best interest to charge the right to do so.

The trustees of museums such as the Natural History Museum have warned that they might rebuff Labour's commitment to free admission and return to charging if their government grant was not large enough.

The Tories say they will examine the tax system to see whether it could be used to encourage a culture of giving. But the manifesto falls short of backing the gift aid arrangements requested by many galleries which would give tax breaks to people who donate significant works of art to the nation.

They pledge to increase funding to the Heritage Lottery Fund and to continue the existing tax relief for low-budget films while establishing "a consistent and fair taxation regime for the British film industry".

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