Editorial: Government controls the People's Millions

A little-noticed phrase from the Labour manifesto, quoted by John Low of the RNID in his contribution to our debate about additionality, gives the game away on the Big Lottery Fund: "Labour has put more money than ever before into veterans' issues, including £27m of lottery funding during the past two years."

There's clearly no doubt in the Government's mind who runs the show, and the recent episode of the School Food Trust confirmed this. As George Hepburn of the Community Foundation in Tyne and Wear said, research shows that all lotteries are eventually taken over by governments. Steven Burkeman's declaration - "this is about keeping the funds to pay for, and preserve, the independent voice of the sector in a democracy" - does look a bit utopian.

So where does our debate leave us on the day after the second reading of the National Lottery Bill, aka the last rites of the late lamented Community Fund? It hasn't provided clear answers or produced a watertight definition of additionality, but it has perhaps clarified a complex situation. The main feature of this is that culture secretary Tessa Jowell is in charge - or, as she put it, "in some cases lottery funding needs to complement other streams of funding in order to deliver maximum benefit".

BLF chief executive Stephen Dunmore accepts that the general policy is set by her department, but asserts that he and his board have considerable freedom, and that lottery funding "is distinct from Government funding and adds value".

Meanwhile, it's clear that some organisations have not only fallen in with this approach but feel they and society have genuinely benefited from it: ContinYou, which has a successful after-hours school programme, is a case in point. Others, such as Neil Cleevely of NACVS, just want to make the best of the situation. He said: "We don't want the BLF to do the Government's job, but we do want flexible partnership arrangements that meet real local needs."

The third grouping includes dissidents such as Burkeman, Hepburn and the leaders of Acevo. At the moment they're on the losing side, but that's precisely why they shouldn't go away and shut up. For without their continuing vigilance and challenge, the Government would inevitably be tempted to be still more blatant about co-opting lottery funds to an agenda that, though socially beneficial in many ways, is ultimately driven by politics.

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