Government plans 'could lead to fewer Big Lottery Fund awards'

Directory of Social Change questions new policy

The coalition government's policy programme, published yesterday, could result in fewer lottery awards to charities but they could be bigger, according to the Directory of Social Change.

The document, described by Prime Minister David Cameron as a blueprint for "a radical, reforming government", calls for National Lottery distributors' administration costs to be restricted to 5 per cent of total income to stop "wasteful spending".

The Big Lottery Fund, which gives half the money raised by the lottery to good causes, currently spends 8 per cent of total income on administration.

Ben Wittenberg, director of policy and research at the DSC, said it might be realistic for the other three lottery distributors for arts, heritage and sport to achieve the 5 per cent target, but not for the BLF.

"Sticking to 5 per cent is just ridiculous," said Wittenberg. "Other distributors give big, single grants. The BLF gives thousands of tiny grants - and that's the role it should be playing. Providing lots of small funds requires more administration."

A BLF spokeswoman said: "Significant parts of our operating costs are not just administration. Consulting stakeholders, supporting grant applicants and holders in their work and conducting evaluation and research are vital to delivering outcomes effectively.

"We don't want unnecessary bureaucracy, but we need to ensure that we fund accessibly and fairly, provide a good customer service and, most importantly, ensure that the outcomes we seek are delivered."

The government also plans to reduce the amount of National Lottery income awarded to the BLF from 50 per cent to 40 per cent over two years. But a spokeswoman for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said the voluntary sector would actually receive more funding after 2012 because Olympic funding would stop.

The coalition's policy programme, for which a three-month consultation process began this week, pledges to "examine the case" for funding the lottery with the gross tax profits of lottery operator Camelot rather than a percentage of ticket sales. This change was a Liberal Democrat manifesto pledge.

The 34-page document also says all welfare-to-work programmes will be scrapped and replaced by a single welfare-to-work programme.

Ralph Michell, head of policy at chief executives body Acevo, said it was pleased the voluntary sector was central to the document and the proposals to extend civil liberties were good news for campaigning organisations.

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