A coalition of seven charities has finally received £100 million of lottery money more than two years after it was originally awarded.
UnLTD, a foundation for social entrepreneurs, was given the funds by Millennium Awards, part of the Millennium Commission, in December 2000 following a grant competition. However, it did not receive the money until 26 February this year.
A source at UnLTD claimed that the money was initially scheduled to be transferred in November 2002. But Erica Roberts, director of Millennium Awards, refuted this, saying that the commission did not make the final conditional offer until just before Christmas. "The trust, which UnLTD will use to administer the money, was only set up on 27 January, and was not registered with the Charity Commission until 31 January," she said.
John Rafferty, chief executive of UnLTD, admitted that the delay had been difficult but understandable. "The number of audits we had went into double figures," he said. "It can be frustrating, but I am delighted that it is now under way. The Millennium Commission has always been helpful."
Roberts admitted that transfer of the endowment had taken longer than expected, but denied that there had been any major delays. "I didn't think that it would take two years, but I wasn't working to a set date," she said.
"This is the first trust of its kind and, as is to be expected with such a large amount of public money, rigorous legal checks and monitoring were required to make sure that it would be managed appropriately."
The money has now been invested in an endowment and grants will be distributed regularly by UnLTD to schemes helping local communities.
It will take a year for the endowment to grow reserves of its own and so the Millennium Commission has given the organisation £3 million to cover operating costs during the first year.
Tessa Jowell, Secretary of State for Culture and chairman of the Millennium Commission, has welcomed the awards. "For the first time, control over a significant amount of lottery money will be handed over to a charity which will oversee the awarding of grants to individuals," she said.
UnLTD made the first "level one" awards of up to £2,500 each for start-up community projects to 36 people from all over the UK on 24 February.
More awards will be made each month. Several trial "level two" grants of around £15,000 each for larger projects will be awarded in the next few months before level two is fully launched in the autumn.
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