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24 June 2008

Tories to overhaul lotto

A Conservative government would overhaul the way lotto funds are distributed, Shadow Culture Secreta

By Tom Quinn

The National Lottery faces a radical overhaul if the Tories win power at the next election with proceeds from games to be funnelled directly into the arts, sport, heritage and charities, Shadow Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has told newstatesman.com.

“The Labour Party has been treating the lottery like its own personal piggy bank, using it to fund pet projects that are clearly areas of government responsibility,” said Hunt. “The result is that less and less money is going into the arts.”

Although Hunt applauds Labour for placing the arts at the heart of the domestic policy discussion he argues Labour’s mismanagement of lottery funds mean “the Conservative Party is now the natural party for the arts”.

He argues that since 1998, Labour’s habit of haphazardly spending money brought in by the lottery – including allocating more than £200 million for administrative costs and another £50,000 on in-house surveys to determine whether lotto employees are happy – has diverted nearly £4 billion away from the original core “good causes” of the arts, sport, heritage and charities.

He says that, to their credit, Labour has tried to compensate by increasing the amount of direct government spend in these areas, but have still fallen woefully short in their efforts. The arts, for example, has seen its net funding cut by more than £300 million.

“If we stop using spending lottery funds on administrative and overhead costs, that alone could generate another £50 million for the arts,” said Hunt.

While some might challenge the need to subsidise the arts, when there are so many other worthwhile causes, Hunt insists their importance cannot be overstated.

“We should always be worrying about the arts,” said Hunt. “They give people a better understanding of where we’ve come from, and they are an essential part of understanding where we are now.”

Furthermore, Hunt sees the arts as a means by which the United Kingdom can create a heterogeneous yet solid national identity from the hodgepodge of ethnicities and religions that have become an integral part of British society.

“I think a lot of people in government have this totally false belief that the minorities that have come to Britain are only interested in the countries they left,” said Hunt. I think many of them are very interested in British art and culture. We need to be positive in promoting British culture and history, both the good and the bad, and not be embarrassed of it.”

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