MP attacks Big Lottery Fund for awarding more grants to rich areas

Barbara Keeley raises concerns in Parliament about the distribution of lottery money and the speed in which areas receive it

Barbara Keeley
Barbara Keeley

A Labour MP has claimed more lottery grants go to richer areas and criticised the Big Lottery Fund for delays in getting schemes underway.

Barbara Keeley, who represents Worsley and Eccles South, said lottery distributors had allocated only £6m to her constituency since 1995, compared with £914m to the Cities of London and Westminster constituency.

"This disparity in funding is unacceptable," she said. "On a number of occasions, I raised with the Big Lottery Fund my concern about how few grants were being made to community groups in my constituency."

Keeley’s criticisms came during a Westminster Hall debate in Parliament in which she also expressed concerns about delays to a £1m lottery scheme in Little Hulton, a suburb of Salford, Greater Manchester.

The BLF’s Big Local Trust, which is giving £200m to areas that have been overlooked for funding, awarded the grant in July 2010.

Keeley said the award had provided "some redress of that grossly unfair distribution", but 15 months later "not one penny of the lottery money has gone to the local community".

She added: "The allocation of £1m to a deprived area that has missed out on funding should be good news, but all we have seen for 15 months is false starts and lack of progress. The BLF has been unable to get a scheme going effectively."

A BLF spokesman said it had a "proven track record" of funding according to need, a claim backed by an independent parliamentary research paper in 2009 that said half the money it awarded went to the one-fifth most deprived areas.

He added Big Local Trust was "not a conventional grant programme. It is a £200m ten-year commitment to invest in up to 150 neighbourhoods across England."

He said it was not just about providing funding but also "helping to build confidence and leadership" so that areas were "better able to work together to secure other funding in the future".

Beneficiaries could receive initial funding awards of £10,000 to gather ideas on how to spend the £1m, he added.

The spokesman said: "Little Hulton in Barbara Keeley’s constituency did not take up this initial funding during the first round but the funding remains available to them alongside an additional £20,000 of round two funding and we will work closely with them and interested parties to support how they might wish to use this funding."

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