Letter: Scant evidence of a commitment to the arts

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THE ARTS community is right to feel betrayed by the new Labour government ("What a party ...", 15 February). Labour are helping themselves to pounds 200m of money allocated to the Arts Council Lottery Distributing Boards to help finance their New Opportunities Fund. In addition, pounds 200m is being removed from each of the Heritage, Sports and Charities Boards.

The Government is diverting the money to use for projects of its choosing. These are clearly central government initiatives being funded by Lottery money.

It is without precedent for money to be set aside in this way in advance of the passage of legislation. Ministers have informed us that a voluntary agreement was reached with the distributing bodies. They have refused to publish the details.

It is hard to imagine how the arts, heritage or other boards can request additional money from government if, without murmur, they have each deprived their sectors of pounds 200m over five years.

The end of the Lottery as a ring-fenced source of funding for the arts, sport, heritage and charities is a tragic missed opportunity. Every treasury in the world casts envious eyes on a successful national lottery. It took Gordon Brown just six months to get his hands on the money.

Virginia Bottomley MP

House of Commons