Focus: Policy and Politics - Government U-turn on lottery money

Ministers pledge that the BLF will be held to its funding pledge, writes Nathalie Thomas.

The Government has promised to ensure that the Big Lottery Fund fulfils its pledge to distribute 60 to 70 per cent of its funds to the voluntary sector.

"The Government will act as the guarantor," Lord Davies of Oldham, lottery spokesman, said during the committee stage of the Lottery Bill last week.

"We will do everything possible to ensure the fund delivers on the undertaking and reports on it in a transparent and accessible way."

Davies's commitment reverses a decision by Richard Caborn, the lottery minister, during the Bill's Commons stages that the BLF should be allowed to settle the percentages itself.

Caborn said at the time: "We need to leave that flexibility for those who are making the decision."

The U-turn has been heralded as a triumph for the sector following concerns that, had it been left to its own devices, the BLF could have reneged on its commitment at a later stage.

"This a real victory for the sector," said Stuart Etherington, chief executive of the NCVO. "We are delighted with the outcome."

Although this is the clearest indication yet of what cut the sector can expect from lottery expenditure, not everyone is satisfied with the 60-70 per cent figure.

Lord Shutt of Greetland, a Liberal Democrat peer, said there needed to be greater clarification about whether the sector can expect closer to 60 or 70 per cent. He pointed out that the difference of 10 percentage points can often be significant in financial terms.

Concerns about the Government's control over the BLF also continue. The Bill requires the BLF to comply with any direction given to it by the Secretary of State in exercising its functions.

However, the Secretary of State intended to make any such directions public, Oldham said. The BLF "should also include them in its annual report", he added.

Consensus has been reached on the definition of 'charitable' in the Bill, after fears were raised that some good causes could miss out on funding if they were not registered charities.

Any project that has been set up for a "charitable, benevolent or philanthropic purpose" can benefit from lottery expenditure - a move that, according to the Government, will save the BLF time and administrative costs because it will no longer have to make complex judgements about eligibility.

KEY POINTS

- The Government will guarantee that the BLF will distribute 60 to 70 per cent of its funds to the voluntary sector

- This reverses a decision by Richard Caborn, lottery minister, that the BLF should be allowed to settle percentages itself

- The U-turn has been welcomed by the voluntary sector, which was concerned that the BLF might have reneged on its commitment.

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