Debra Allcock Tyler: Give Cameron a nudge to return the Olympics millions

It's about time the money was given back to the Big Lottery Fund, says our columnist

Debra Allcock Tyler
Debra Allcock Tyler

The Whig politician Horace Walpole said: "I do not admire politicians; but when they are excellent in their way, one cannot help allowing them their due." David Cameron has an opportunity to be allowed his due right now.

In 2007, the previous government annexed £425m of Big Lottery Fund money to finance the Olympics. The outcry was such that the NCVO led a highly vocal campaign telling them to get their greedy hands off money that properly belonged to the voluntary sector's beneficiaries, not the government. At the time, the Conservative Party made much political capital out of it, castigating Labour and promising to "restore the lottery's independence".

Fast forward to 2012, and we at the Directory of Social Change have taken up the baton. As part of our Big Lottery Refund Campaign, I wrote to Jeremy Hunt last year reminding him of his party's promise and asking him to refund the money to the BLF. He told me that the money would come back in the mid-2020s (at which point I spat out my tea!) - what use is that to charities struggling today? And by the way, they're handing over control of the Olympic assets - which are supposed to be sold off to fund the payback - to the Mayor of London. So not only was our money nicked (morally at least), but the current plan also does not return the cash from whence it was 'alf-inched in the first place.

The point is that this money has been spent on infrastructure that will benefit the private sector twice - once when they got paid to build it, twice when they get to buy it and profit from using it. DSC calculates that, as a result of the raid, at least 10,000 charities will have suffered.

More critically, the money charities get from the BLF goes to serve beneficiaries - vulnerable human beings. Even the most conservative estimate (pardon the pun) would suggest a minimum of eight million people did not get some help they might otherwise have got as a result of this theft. I repeat, that's eight million people.

Last week, we heard news of a projected £476m underspend on the Olympics. Yay! So clearly Mr Cameron, being a man of integrity, will be writing a cheque to the BLF for £425m by the closing ceremony of the Olympics. And we can celebrate those 1,500,000 vulnerable human beings finally getting the support and help they deserve.

However, I suspect it would help Cameron to face down the Treasury (which will doubtless object) if each one of you Third Sector readers also wrote to him asking him for the money to be refunded. I have every confidence he will agree that it's the right thing to do. But the more people who write to him, the more likely he is to ... ahem ... stand up and be counted.

I have already drafted my thank-you letter to Cameron. It goes something like: "Dear Dave, thanks for keeping your word. Debs. xxx".

You can join DSC's campaign at www.biglotteryrefund.org.uk.

Debra Allcock Tyler, chief executive of the Directory of Social Change

- Read our analysis on the Olympics and its volunteers

- Find out why Stephen Cook thinks the legacy of volunteering at the 2012 Olympics is unclear

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