EDITORIAL: Funding bodies must be viewed as independent

LUCY MAGGS

The Daily Mail last week ran a story on the National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns and the £340,000 grant made to it by the Community Fund.

This was shortly followed by a statement from David Blunkett where he stated that he had "serious concerns

about the fund's support of the organisation (see News in Focus, p10). The sector, quite rightly, has been outraged.

Ever since the lottery was set up there has been a debate raging about how independent its funding is. The Government has always maintained that it does not influence this but David Blunkett's reaction has called into question who decides where the lottery money goes: is it the distributing bodies, the Government or even the Daily Mail?

The New Opportunities Fund has often been criticised for funding services that the Government really should provide for. But the Community Fund has always maintained its independence. Indeed, recently it has called for a public debate on the future of the lottery and criticised a government proposal to appoint regional politicians onto lottery grant-giving boards because this could threaten its independence.

The voluntary sector prides itself on its independence and ability to run projects that may sometimes be controversial, such as the Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns. Money from bodies such as the Community Fund, independent from government, allows many projects to continue to exist and the sector to continue to be an innovative and exciting place to work.

The recent Green Paper has proposed a selection of changes to the lottery distributors, including the suggestion that more of them should channel statutory as well as non-statutory funds. An arrangement like this could, however, lead to further blurring of the line between statutory and lottery funding and more government control over where lottery money goes.

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