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It’s hard to see through the fog surrounding the future of the National Lottery

One of the most vexing issues on the voluntary sector landscape right now is the future of the National Lottery.

The government wants to reduce the amount of good causes money awarded by the Big Lottery Fund from 50 per cent to 40 per cent.

Considering that the BLF has given £3.6bn to mainly charitable projects since 2004, you might have expected this to be greeted with howls of protest.

But the sector’s response so far has been fairly muted because nobody knows quite what the impact will be.

Ministers claim charities will actually benefit. While the BLF’s slice of the cake will diminish, they say, the overall size of the cake will increase when Olympics-diverted funds return after 2012.

They are also proposing that all BLF funding goes to not-for-profit organisations. Currently, a minimum of 80 per cent must go to voluntary groups although the BLF says the actual figure is 92 per cent. The remainder goes to statutory projects, which under the last government led to allegations of ministers using the lottery to fund pet projects.

Ministers also point out that, although the proportion of lottery money going to the BLF will decrease, the proportion going to arts, heritage and sports distributors will increase and a good deal of this will go to charities.

It’s a persuasive argument, yet a sense of uneasiness remains. Last week Navca and the Directory of Social Change called on the overall amount of money going to local voluntary and community groups to be preserved.

When Nick Hurd, Minister for Civil Society, was in opposition he was fond of using the phrase ‘smoke and mirrors’ to describe Labour’s policies and statements.

It’s hard to see through the fog of this one.

  • James Renton

    John

    I am also surprised at the lack of debate, why the VCS are not seeking clarity or even working the figures out for themselves.

    There are two clear questions, how much money will be available in the future and how much goes to the statutory sector.

    1) How much money will be available? BLF had a £740 million income last year – so let’s assume that ticket sales remain the same and there is no extra money to the Olympics (and also ignore the corrosive impact of inflation on the future buying capacity of grants). Based on a 40% share of lottery income and 5% admin costs limit – BLF would have potential income of £563 million. How much BLF actually spends on grants depends on an assessment of their outgoings, liabilities and projected income – for example they spent only £440m on new grants in 2009-10 from an income of £740 million after the Olympics, administrative costs and money stashed away for future schemes was taken away. In addition, historically the average annual expenditure on new awards by BLF over the three years in 2006-07 to 2008-09 was £691 million so a return to pre Olympic spending levels is entirely dependent on a future massive and sustained rise in lottery ticket sales. Quite why NAVCA et al can not work this out is quite beyond me?

    2) Spending on the statutory sector? BLF have recently published figures showing how the 8% going to the “statutory sector” was allocated in 2009-10. 1% – Veterans (Heroes Return 2 scheme); 2% – Local authorities (includes parish and town councils); 1% – Health (PCTs); 3% – Schools and 1% – Others (I presume social enterprises). As I have said in a previous blog the vast majority of “statutory spending” is on schools and parish councils so there is no slaying of big public sector dragons here. This populist measure will do nothing except mean that your local primary school will not be able to put up a sensory garden or the parish council can not install a new toilet in the village hall.