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Heritage funding faces draft Lottery bill threat

A former chief executive of the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has issued a stark warning over the organisation's future funding.

Anthea Case, who is now chairman of the charity Heritage Link, believes 'unacceptable' new clauses in the draft Lottery Bill could allow civil servants to raid heritage coffers.

If passed, the bill - one of 32 announced in the Queen's Speech last week - would result in the merger of the Community and New Opportunities funds to create a new 'Big Lottery Fund'.

Alarmingly, the draft bill includes a clause stating that the new fund will have 'to comply with any direction' from the secretary of state for culture, media and sport, effectively giving Tessa Jowell the power to remove Lottery money allocated to one area and transfer it to another.

As a consequence, Case claimed that money destined for the historic environment through the HLF could be diverted elsewhere. 'The clause is clearly there for a purpose - it's a real threat, ' she said.

'Though I don't think there is necessarily anything now that the government want to use the money for, they must see it is a good back pocket to have. One obvious use could be the Olympics, and there is always the risk that a bright idea will turn up on the statute books and the civil servants will be able to use this money for it.

'There seems to be a long-term refusal on the part of the secretary of state to understand that money promised to grantees that hasn't been spent yet, will be spent.' Case is also concerned about a second clause in the draft bill that could open the door for Jowell to siphon off interest accruing on unpaid balances. At present, any interest made by the HLF goes back into the heritage pot.

'Money is set aside so people know it is there when they need it. Interest on this money alone is worth around £15 million a year. Architects should be worried, because Lottery funding is not just about restoration and conservation, ' Case added. 'Many payments help make the new heritage of tomorrow.'

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