Tories blamed for England football woes as sport gets a £50m boost

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The Independent Online

Chris Smith, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, blamed Tory underfunding for the poor record of the present England football team when he announced a £50m boost for sport yesterday.

Chris Smith, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, blamed Tory underfunding for the poor record of the present England football team when he announced a £50m boost for sport yesterday.

In a statement to the Commons he said funding would be doubled over the next three years to £102m to "put English sport back on its feet". Unveiling his department's spending plans after the comprehensive spending review, he said there would also be a £100m increase for the arts over the same period to 2003-04.

Regional theatres will be given extra help and funding for museums, galleries and libraries will rise by £61m. Film funding will rise by 10 per cent.

A dozen "creative partnerships" will be set up in poor inner cities to ensure children have access to theatres, galleries and television studios to help them find jobs in the arts.

Earlier, Mr Smith joined Tony Blair and the England chief coach, Kevin Keegan, at Downing Street for the launch of the Football Foundation, successor to the Football Trust, which will invest £82m of Premier League money in grassroots soccer.

In his statement Mr Smith said the £50m for sport would include a doubling of school sports co-ordinators by 2003-04. He said that under the Tories funding on school sports plummeted by 70 per cent; 40 school playing fields had been sold a month. "The Tories tore the heart out of school sport, with after-school activity in particular disappearing at schools across the country. We are reaping the results of that damage today."

The Government will bring back competitive inter-school leagues in football, rugby, cricket, netball and athletics as part of its wider ambition to use sport to improve youngsters' health and reduce crime.

Mr Smith said the arts, "starved" of cash by the Tories, were part of the "core script" of the Government and would receive £100m more funding by 2003-04. Funding for film and the Royal Parks would rise by nearly 10 per cent, for English Heritage by 8 per cent, for the English Tourism Council by over 20 per cent and for the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment by well inexcess of 100 per cent.

Money for museums, libraries, galleries and archives will rise by £61m to continue free admission to some buildings and to allow substantial repairs to museums.

Public lending rights payments to authors, the money they receive from loans of their books in libraries, will be restored to their full real-term value from 2002-3.

Peter Ainsworth, shadow Culture Secretary, said the spending figures had been "fiddled, spun and inflated" out of all recognition. He said that Labour had presided over a period of "cultural vandalism", a fiasco over Wembley Stadium and the embarrassment of the Millennium Dome.

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