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Pounds 1.5bn plan to boost sport and arts

Plans for releasing Pounds 1.5 billion from National Lottery funds to benefit sport and the arts for young people have been put to the Prime Minister by the Lottery Promotion Company.

Denis Vaughan, the orchestral conductor and executive director of the company, reckons that only 17 per cent of the Pounds 3 billion raised for the National Lottery Distribution Fund (NLDF) has been paid out.

He claims there is no need for all this money to be retained as it is only paid out as capital projects progress. As the fund is being replenished at the rate of Pounds 25 million a week, half could be released immediately for youth sport and the arts without matching funding. He said: "Our aim is to increase the quality of life for young people."

But a Department for National Heritage spokeswoman said the Government had not sought his views on the distribution of lottery funds. "And in any case, the money is just not there. We have to keep the funds as it is all committed. What he's saying is simply not true."

Mr Vaughan, who lobbied hard for the lottery to be established, has been a strong critic of the way the Government set it up, especially what he sees as its reactive nature and lack of strategic planning.

His company envisaged that the distribution of funds would be guided by a charitable foundation which would set up endowments for orchestras and theatres, and invest in sports and arts projects for young people.

"In one financial year alone, Camelot, which invested Pounds 50 million, has been allowed to make a profit of Pounds 70 million, when the same department (of National Heritage) cannot find any means to allow the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra to receive more than Pounds 300,000 in a year. Does that look like irresponsibility and incompetence both at once?

"The DNH is always urging business-like behaviour on arts bodies, but if it were a business it would have folded years ago," he added.

He has suggested to John Major that the unspent money in the NLDF should be channelled through the charities, via the National Lotteries Charities Board. The overall allocation could be restructured from the current even five-way split for the good causes. Sport and recreation would get 40 per cent; the arts, 30 per cent; environment and heritage, 18 per cent; other charities, 7 per cent; and the Millennium Fund, 5 per cent.

In the short term, Mr Vaughan would channel a substantial amount of the unused money into sport and the arts exclusively through charitable organisations which target young people. Sixty per cent would go for sport (Pounds 900 million) and 40 per cent for the arts (Pounds 600 million).

His plan has been welcomed by the Central Council of Physical Recreation and more than 20 sports' governing bodies have already drawn up detailed plans for expanding youth sport.

Maggie Semple, education officer at the Arts Council, was more cautious. Although the council welcomed initiatives in arts education, she pointed out that it had recently launched Arts for All, which pre-empted his plan.

Mr Vaughan is not modest about the expected effects of his company's proposals. He says they will bring a "multitude of social and financial benefits" in health costs, in reducing juvenile crime and in additional tax revenue.

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