So tell us, what effects will the doubling (or trebling if you include the new £2.7bn contingency fund) of the cost of the Olympics have on the ability of building preservation trusts and other community groups to keep on finding innovative new ways to conserve, use and revitalise our old buildings?
Back in November 2006 The Guardian reported that the Heritage Lottery Fund was expecting to lose £143 million as a result of the Olympics, mostly taking effect after 2009. At the time the HLF told the paper:
We would, of course, be concerned at any further allocation of heritage lottery money to the Olympics, since it would affect our ability to support our national heritage at a time when it will be an important part of the UK’s wider offering to Olympic visitors.
Also last year Tristram Hunt ( a trustee of the Heritage Lottery Fund) warned the government against “raiding” heritage funds for the Olympics, saying:
…if more people are going to appreciate the history and meaning of this old, complex country, then ministers are going to have to keep their fingers out of the lottery till and deliver a proper heritage settlement.
The National Council for Voluntary Organisations gave it’s double edged reaction today by first saying it “welcomed the Government’s commitment that the voluntary and community sector will not suffer as a result of the increased budget for the 2012 Olympic Games” but then already flagging up fears for heritage funding:
We remain concerned that arts, sports and heritage charities and community groups may lose out as a result of the diversion and are seeking further details on exactly how this commitment will be kept.
Only last month the chairman of the Big Lottery Fund Sir Clive Booth said it would be criminal to divert resources:
I don’t know how anybody could live with themselves, let alone Gordon Brown, if they were taking money off projects such as that to close an Olympic funding gap
Of course we are a charity and one of those voluntary organisations which the government argues will not be harmed by the leap in the budget for the Olympics. Any fall in the budget for the Heritage Lottery Fund may have a direct impact of what we can accomplish here in Birmingham. It would be good to know what we can expect.
Peter Hewitt at the Arts Council is already certain this is bad news for his sector, while Variety reports (first thing this morning) it will have an impact on film (thanks to the National Film Society).
Meanwhile Seb Coe of the Olympic bid described sport as “the hidden social worker in the community”.