Interview: Sir Clive Booth, chair of the Big Lottery Fund, looks into the future

The BLF recently endured a blitzkrieg from the Conservative Party on everything from the grants it has awarded to the number of staff it has. It came as the sector was asking questions about the future in the light of the recent transfer of £425m of BLF funds to the Olympic coffers.

Booth admits that the Olympic diversion will bring necessary changes, but he emphasises that the BLF is far from being out of pocket. Speaking to Third Sector fresh from lunch with Ed Balls, he is fired up about the BLF's new £160m children's programme, opening for applications in April. It is being paid for by Balls' Department for Children, Schools and Families.

This is not the BLF's first departure from lottery funding. It is already running a £30m community assets programme for the Office of the Third Sector and has been named as the preferred distributor of a large tranche of the estimated £350m of unclaimed assets earmarked by the Government for spending on youth facilities.

These new income streams, plus the continual flood of applications for the fund's programmes, are expected to protect the BLF from any redundancies, despite falling income from the lottery.

"It's true that we will have less money to hand out in the four-year period, but what largely drives staff levels is the number of applications we're getting in, and there is no indication that they're going to decline," Booth says.

"In fact, the reverse is true. In the past year alone, we've had applications totalling £8.3bn. We'll still need large numbers of staff to work on that."

A slightly thornier issue is how the fund will manage non-lottery income without compromising the strict additionality principles surrounding its core funding. According to Booth, the board wants the new money to be integrated as closely as possible with the fund's other operations.

"We are not going to have a separate building or a separate floor labelled 'non-lottery'," says Booth, who is dismissive of fears that the different funds may become confused.

"There'll be no contamination, if you're worried that somehow our mainstream funding programmes would be corrupted by the presence of this tainted Ed Balls money coming into the back door in unmarked vans," he says.

He insists that the board is not empire-building but seeking new opportunities and would even consider running programmes for philanthropists such as Bill Gates.

"If the money is available to do good in the areas where we're trying to do good, I don't care if it comes from private benefactors or companies," he says.

One of the areas in which the BLF is most conspicuously trying to do good is youth provision.

When asked if the appointment of the DCSF's Peter Wanless as the fund's new chief executive was an intentional move to boost the fund's youth credentials, Booth says it was a "complete coincidence".

One certainty, however, is that Wanless is joining the organisation at a crucial time. "I suspect he'll want to take a very careful look at the way we work, given that we're going into this period of change," says Booth.

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