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.