Tories pledge lottery shake-up

Mathew Little

Lottery players will be able to specify which causes should benefit from their ticket purchase under new proposals from the Conservatives.

The pledge is contained in Sixty Million Citizens - A Green Paper On The Voluntary And Community Sector, which was launched last week by Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith.

The paper says that lottery players should be able to choose local charities to receive funding either through their ticket or a special gift token.

Duncan Smith said the reform would prevent further politicisation of the lottery and "redirect the attention of charity fundraisers to the values and concerns of local people and their communities".

The party also wants to introduce an "unfair competition test" to "protect existing charities from being elbowed aside by the Government's own rushed start-ups".

The party claims government initiatives such as the National Family and Parenting Institute and the Experience Corps have been introduced at the expense of voluntary organisations already working in the field.

Among the other 14 proposals in the document, which is open for consultation until the end of August, are plans to extend tax relief to "spontaneous" giving such as collection boxes and allow people to donate state benefits such as child benefit to charities.

The Tories also want to introduce "bureaucracy busters" within government to cut red tape for charities, give community organisations the right to own under-used public assets such as halls or parks, and set up an Office of Civil Society which would report to a Cabinet minister.

But there is no commitment to abolish the sector's VAT burden, a previous pledge under former party leader William Hague or on the full cost recovery from public sector contracts.

Tim Montgomerie, director of the party's Renewing One Nation Unit, said the Tories approach was "evolutionary, not revolutionary".

Beth Egan, deputy director and voluntary sector specialist with think-tank the Social Market Foundation, welcomed the party's proposals on tax relief on spontaneous giving.

"It's entirely unideological, so I hope it gets picked up by the other parties as well," she said.

But she was less impressed with the lottery proposal. "I don't think a beauty pageant to decide who gets lottery funds is any way a good idea," she said.

CONSERVATIVES' PROPOSALS

- A single application form for groups seeking Whitehall funding

- 'Charity choice' for lottery players to enable them to decide who gets the money from their ticket

- Give community organisations the right to own under-used public assets such as halls or parks

- Pay a 'volunteer bounty' to charities which recruit volunteers to meet certain social challenges

- Introduce an 'unfair competition test' to stop government usurping voluntary sector projects

- Extend tax relief to spontaneous giving and allow the donation of state benefits to charity

- Establish an Office of Civil Society within government

- Ensure fair funding treatment for faith-based groups.

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