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Sporting chance to answer critics

Your article on the New Opportunities for PE and Sport Programme (TES, January 23) seeks to discredit this, one of the largest single commitments of lottery money, with accusations of empty promises and shirked commitments. In fact nothing could be further from the truth.

The article states that more than two-thirds of the pound;750 million fund has not yet even been allocated. On the contrary, all the money was allocated to local education authorities and their partners by November 2001, and to date more than pound;230m has been awarded to 631 projects.

All of the funds will be committed by the 2005 deadline originally set out by the Government.

This funding will bring about a step-change in provision of sports facilities for young people and the community in general. It is intended not just to offer sporting opportunities, but to have a long-term impact on key issues facing local communities such as education, health, crime and drugs misuse. These are ambitious objectives and this is a project designed to bring about long-term improvements. Whether funding is used to build new facilities from scratch or improve existing amenities, a fundamental aim is that what is created should be of the highest quality and a real investment for communities of today and tomorrow.

We are working closely in partnership with Sport England and all education authorities throughout the UK to ensure that we are getting best value for money and targeting it effectively on the areas of greatest need, where it will have the greatest impact. To do any less would mean not just negligent mis-spending of public money but also a missed opportunity to create the best opportunities for sport for the people who need them most.

Baroness Pitkeathley

Chair of the New Opportunities Fund

The editor writes: The Prime Minister promised in 2000 "to invest pound;750 million of lottery money in schools and community sport as part of a pound;1billion investment over three years". As Baroness Pitkeathley confirms, only pound;230m - less than a third of the pound;750m - has been allocated to individual projects so far. Less than 2 per cent has been spent.

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