EDITORIAL: New consultation hands ministers a second chance

Lucy Maggs

The Government committed this week to another consultation on the lottery, this time on the merger of the New Opportunities Fund and the Community Fund. Richard Caborn, the minister with responsibility for the National Lottery, stated that the Government would consult with the sector over the creation of the new board of the merged organisation.

He assured the sector that the process will take place over 12 weeks in accordance with the Compact, the agreement that lays out guidelines for the relationship between the voluntary sector and the Government.

But Labour's track record of working with the sector on the issue is not good. The results of the last consultation showed that the majority of people in Government and the voluntary sector did not support the merger of the two distributors. Despite this Tessa Jowell, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, has marched on with the proposal.

As a result of the Government's handling of the issue, the sector has become suspicious about the motivations for the merger. A full, properly conducted consultation could help the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) diffuse the situation and re-establish trust.

NCVO has stated that the next consultation should not just be about the structure of a new organisation resulting from the merger. But, instead, it should take a step back and include an opportunity for the sector to examine the business case for the two organisations coming together. The DCMS clearly feels there is a strong case, but judging by the results of the last consultation, it seems that many voluntary organisations will need convincing.

The sector also needs to be assured that the Government will take into account its views, whether they are in accordance with ministers' opinions or not. There is little point in asking for its opinions only for them to be ignored.

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