Fundraising: Navca says grants fund is 'subsidising the state'

A row has broken out between Navca and the Big Lottery Fund over the distribution of a heavily oversubscribed grants programme.

Navca claimed last week that its members are struggling to access the Reaching Communities fund because demand is too high. It said that the voluntary sector is in effect subsidising the state, because local councils and schools receive grants from the fund, which it argues is the same pot of money that used to fund only local voluntary groups through the Community Fund.

Navca's claims were prompted by a BLF announcement last month that Reaching Communities, which opened in December 2005 with £100m to spend, is awarding grants to fewer than one in four fundable projects that apply. By the end of June, the programme had received 4,538 applications for grants, representing a total of £1bn.

"There is massive demand," said Kevin Curley, chief executive of Navca.

"This is the main demand-led BLF programme. With 10 times more money applied for than is available, many excellent voluntary and community project applications are being rejected. We are seeing local authorities cream off much of the cash."

Navca cited the example of a £52,000 grant to Leeds City Council towards the redevelopment of an outdoor games area and a primary school for a building on school grounds.

Stephen Dunmore, chief executive of the BLF, said Navco's claims were bizarre. "We have made 90 awards since May, totalling £19.6m," he said.

"Of these, 88 have been made to voluntary and community organisations, and only two have been made to local authorities or schools. These totalled little more than £100,000."

Dunmore said the BLF had promised that 60-70 per cent of funding across all its programmes between 2006 and 2009 will go to voluntary and community groups.

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