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Ministers neglect their pledge to improve sport

Almost pound;100 million promised by the Government to improve school sport facilities has not been spent, sports minister Richard Caborn has admitted to Parliament.

Two flagship intiatives - intended to boost primary sport and address concerns over the sale of playing fields - have so far delivered less than pound;3 million between them to schools and local communities.

The Space for Sports and Arts initiative to improve primary sports and arts facilities has delivered less than pound;1m of its pound;75m budget in its first two years.

For the year 20001, only pound;13,000 was spent of a budget of pound;15m. By 20012, the budget had risen to pound;60m, but only pound;579,000 was actually spent.

"The amount originally budgeted for Space for Sport and Arts that was not spent by the end of 20012 is pound;74.408 million," Mr Caborn said. "All of these funds ... will be available in this and later years to pay for the projects being assisted."

Of the pound;22m allocated under the playing fields project, just pound;2m has been awarded to 19 projects. Only five of these will create new playing fields. The scheme was first announced in March 1999.

Sports organisations said that the figures showed the gap between official rhetoric and the reality in schools.

A spokesman for the Central Council of Physical Recreation, an independent sports body, said that primary schools are being deprived of facilities as a result of government inaction. "We're very disillusioned about the way the Government is progressing sports policy. Its words need to be matched by actions," he said.

But Sport England, the Lottery distributor managing the Space for Sports project, claims that local authorities have spent much of the money, but simply not claimed it back.

Applications for funding for local-authority projects had been submitted by October 31, 2001, and approved in March 2002.

"Within five months, decisions were made on all applications, with 304 awarded. This was a quick turnaround time for a capital funding programme," said Brian Whaley, head of community facilities at Sport England.

"The money is available and waiting to be claimed for costs incurred to date."

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