EDITORIAL: Minister's gaffe will fuel cynicism over the Lottery


Since the start of the National Lottery, there has been a worry in the sector that funds would end up subsidising statutory services.

Recently in Third Sector, Peter Cardy, chief executive of Macmillan Cancer Relief, expressed concern at New Opportunities Fund money being used for palliative care. But the Government has always been adamant that the Lottery pays for additional services on top of those funded by the taxpayer.

A quote on the web site of Lottery distributor the New Opportunities Fund from Jill Pitkeathly, chair of the fund, says: "Programmes should enhance rather than duplicate, undermine or replace other sources of funding."

But the line between Lottery and state funding has become so blurred that even the Government is having difficulty distinguishing between the two. Shadow home secretary Oliver Letwin questioned the Government about the amount of statutory funding going to the voluntary sector. The answer given by Angela Eagle, voluntary- sector minister, was £5.1 billion, which interestingly included £1.1 billion of Lottery money.

The Lottery has rebranded as Lotto and Camelot is placing more emphasis on the 28 per cent of ticket sales that goes to good causes: "You played, the nation won,

says its launch campaign. But if the public feels this is actually a tax, the new marketing ploy is not going to work. And if the all-time low in ticket sales on 25 May is anything to go by, people have not been taken in. Eagle's figures contradict all the careful spin the Government, Camelot and the Lottery distribution bodies have tried to put on Lottery funding.

The losers are the genuine good causes. A Lottery grant can be a huge boost to small organisations running valuable projects. Unfortunately, a combination of public cynicism and government smokescreen will mean less money for those that really deserve it.

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